Should I Write A Birth Plan? Quiz Included!

What is a Baby Birth Plan?

A baby birth plan is typically a summary of your preferences during labor and for your baby’s care just after birth. This type of plan is written down and includes a list of the interventions and pain medications you wish to use or avoid. Couples bring their baby birth plan along to the hospital and share it with the nurse and their care provider. If you are looking for instructions on how to write a birth plan or a printable birth plan template, that information is covered in other articles. I’ve also written a great article that will help you to use a birth plan for birth preparation according to your preferences, which will help you get a lot more value out of your birth plan.

Do I Need a Birth Plan?

Baby Birth PlanPregnant women often ask me if they need a birth plan. Some simply wonder if it is necessary, but for others birth planning seems to be a weighted topic. They express worry that if they write a birth plan they will be perceived as an uncooperative or stubborn patient. Still others worry that if they miss something on their birth plan they may be forced into, or denied, interventions or drugs they do or don’t want. Some women fear that planning too carefully for their birth will set them up for great disappointment if birth doesn’t turn out how they hope.

Everyone’s situation is unique, so I don’t have a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. I do provide a “Do I need a birth plan?” Quiz at the end of the article that will help you answer that question for your unique situation.

Generally speaking none of the concerns voiced above need be true, but with a poorly written birth plan they can be. The typical birth plans I see are, at best, a bit helpful, in which case writing one is barely needed. At their worst, a birth plan can be a divisive document that put both the staff and the parents on the defensive, emphasizing for both their need for the other party to understand the things important to them. A divisive birth plan is usually a list of interventions that the couple wants to avoid, rather than helpful information that helps the staff understand your preferences and how to support you. This type of birth plan makes the staff feel a need to explain things important to them, which in turn leads the couple to explain things important to them, and before long there is a sense of sides or conflict.

Alternatively, a unique and truly effective birth plan is a wonderful tool on the day of your birth. An effective birth plan includes details about how to help you, rather than simply being a list of interventions you do or don’t want. It also succinctly shares your viewpoint or general preferences. The purpose of a good birth plan is to provide the staff who will be assisting you with background information that will help them understand your history, values, and unique requests. If there are particulars about your situation or hopes that require distinctive care, then a birth plan is important.

Birth Planning Vs A Birth Plan

While the birth plan itself may or may not be of great value on the day of your birth depending on your needs (and we’ll get to those in the “Do I need a birth plan” Quiz below), the process of writing a baby birth plan, even a typical one, is extremely valuable! Writing your birth plan will help you become more knowledgeable about your choices, and will help you and your partner understand what matters to one another. Talking to your care provider about your birth plan during a prenatal visit is incredibly important. You can ask them questions while you are gathering information and making your decisions, and then once you have your preferences down on paper you can review your birth plan together to get their feedback.

Discussing your birth plan will make it clear to you if your care provider can offer a lot of concrete support for your choices or if they can simply “allow” your plan but aren’t specifically able to help it happen. Occasionally, when discussing your birth plan, you discover that they are not supportive of your choices or have policies directly at odds with what you want. In these circumstances, you will need to either come to understand and accept their perspective or you will need to seek out a care-provider who is a better fit for you. Exercising your right to informed consent and informed refusal when you are at odds with your care provider is always an option, but one that is often stressful and complicated. I see it as a last resort. I have had many clients who believe they have a doctor that is a wonderful fit because they are kind. Upon reviewing their birth plan, they discover major differences of opinion. While interviewing new providers, they discover that there are other doctors who are not only kind, but are also supportive of and very skilled in helping with exactly what they want. Finding the best provider for you is worth every minute of effort!

With all of this in mind, I would answer the “Should I write a  birth plan?” question like this:

“You need to be aware of your options and the many different perspectives on how to manage birth. You need to think through what feels best for you and be clear about what is really important to you. You also need to be sure that you choose the care provider and place of birth that are the best fit for what you want. Birth planning is essential. Writing a birth plan may not be.”

Take this quiz to see if you should write a baby birth plan, and to discover the reasons to emphasize.

Do I Need A Birth Plan? Quiz

  1. Is there anything unique about my health history or medications?
    • If your answer is yes, you need a birth plan. Sharing the pertinent details about your condition or medications and any special accommodations needed for you or your baby in light of your medical needs is very helpful. These accommodations may include physical concerns, or concerns unique to your experiences with the medical system or hospital stays.
    • If your is answer no then you may not need a birth plan.
  2. Is there anything unique about the cultural, religious, or spiritual care I request during my birth?
    • Yes: You need a birth plan. Use your plan to share your customs, traditions, or beliefs.
    • No: You may not need a birth plan.
  3. Are my preferences for birth management (interventions, monitoring, or pain relief) or the birth environment (distractions, privacy, access to a tub, etc.) considerably different than the norm with my provider or at my place of birth?
    • Yes: It would be best for you to switch to another provider or a different birth location. A birth plan is not a substitute for a great care provider fit. If you are not able to, or choose not to, switch to a new provider you will need a birth plan, but you need to write one very carefully. Begin with detailed conversations with your provider, aiming to understand what is important to them and what flexibility you are freely given. Then discern together what compromises feel reasonable to everyone and how to best write them down for the nurses benefit on the day of your birth.
    • No: You may not need a birth plan.
  4. Are my preferences for birth management or the birth environment slightly different than the norm with my provider or my place of birth?
    • Yes: You may need a birth plan. Use your birth plan to explain your requests, particularly if your preferences are not likely to be covered by routine triage questions such as, “What is your plan for pain?”
    • No: You may not need a birth plan.
  5. Do I have specific ideas in mind for how I want people to interact with me during my birth? For example, are hushed voices and dim lights important to me? Am I hoping for a lot of hands-on support and as much continuous in-room help as possible? Is there specific language for contractions or pain that I prefer to be used?
    • Yes: You need a birth plan. Use your plan to communicate these strong desires.
    • No: You may not need a birth plan.
  6. Is it important to you to limit talking and keep distractions to an absolute minimum?
    • Yes: You may benefit from a birth plan that simply provides all of the information the staff must gather from you when you are admitted to the hospital. You will be able to give this to them rather than answer their questions. Be sure to include a prominent list of your allergies and current medications, and ask your hospital for a list of additional questions that are part of their intake assessment.
    • No: You may not need a birth plan.

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions you may need a birth plan. And remember, if you don’t need a birth plan, you still need to plan for your birth! See How To Write A Birth Plan: Instructions and a Birth Plan Template for help writing your birth plan, and Preparing for Birth for insights into how to plan for your birth whether or not you need a birth plan.

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