Amy's Corner. our lactation consultant answers your questions about nursing.

The Importance of a Birth Plan

Why do I need a birth plan?

birth plan_courtesy of claremontmidwife.comHaving a baby is one of the most exciting and life-changing experiences you can have. You’ve probably dreamed of many of the special moments you’ll have with your new baby, but have you thought about how you want to actually give birth to your little bundle of joy? It’s important to contemplate and make note of your vision for giving birth in a birth plan.  This 1-2 page document outlines your personal desires throughout the entire birth process including labor, delivery and post-partum procedures for both you and your baby.

The first step to creating a birth plan is to discuss your wishes with your partner.  Talk through the type of birth you envision and how you want your baby to enter the world.  Then talk to your OBGYN or practitioner to ensure she understands your desires, and seek her professional recommendations for the safest, healthiest and smoothest birth possible.  Your personal medical profile may dictate some of your options, so be sure to take your physician’s advice into consideration in your birth plan.

What are my options during labor and delivery?

There are many options to consider for your birth plan.  You can specify the people you want to be in your labor & delivery room; amenities such as music or special clothing you’d like to bring; birth props such as a stool or bathtub you’d like to have available; or what pain relief measures you want to employ.  Pain management is a major decision and options include breathing techniques, warm and cool compresses, massage, bathing and medication.

During vaginal delivery, you have options for pushing, including doing so instinctively or being prompted as contractions dictate.  You may want to specify pushing positions, especially if you’re having a natural birth.  Many women like to watch the birth of their babies in a mirror, and some want to have their partners help deliver the baby along side their practitioner.  During c-section, you have the option to partially view the process and have the baby given immediately to your partner.  These are all important details to express in your birth plan.

What choices should I consider for my baby after birth?

Once your new bundle of joy is born, you have several choices for your first few days of interactions with your baby while in the hospital.  You can opt to have all newborn procedures done in your presence or with your partner present, and you’ll have the choice of your baby rooming with you or being taken to the nursery.  If you have other children, you can specify when and where they can see their new baby brother or sister.  And if your baby is a boy, you should make decisions about his circumcision.

breastfeedingOne of the most important choices you will make is how you want to feed your baby.  Many women want to breastfeed their babies right away after birth and research shows this immediate attachment encourages milk production and begins the out-of-womb bonding process.  Even if your baby does not latch during this first breastfeeding session, skin-to-skin contact helps newborns regulate their body temperatures and has a calming effect on baby and mama.  And the closeness, even without latching, will still stimulate milk.  Be clear in your birth plan if you do or do not want your baby to receive formula.  And remember, even if breastfeeding is challenging at first, the colostrum you produce can sustain baby for the first days of his life.

What else should I know?

Your practitioner may have a standard birth plan template or you can download one from popular pregnancy and baby sites such as BabyCenter and The Bump.  Feel free to elaborate important points, but do not be too long-winded because this is meant to be a quick reference when labor and delivery may be progressing rapidly.

Remember that your birth plan is what you ideally wish to happen as you welcome your baby into the world.  Sometimes your health and safety, and that of your baby, will supersede your birth plan.  Be prepared to be flexible and use words like, “it is our wish” or “we hope to be able to” when composing your birth plan.  This will help your mindset of doing whatever is best for you and baby if your birth situation turns critical.

Once you’ve finalized your birth plan, give a copy to your OBGYN or whoever will be the one to deliver your baby.  Having your birth plan in writing will help remind your practitioner of your desires as he or she likely delivers many babies a day!  Also submit a copy to the hospital where you plan to give birth, if applicable, and they will keep it in your file.  And bring a copy with you.  You may not be in the mood to explain your wishes during labor so making sure everyone knows your wishes in advance is wise.

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