Category: Birth plan

April 20, 2011

How to Write a Birth Plan

Having Violet taught me that giving birth is full of twists and turns (both literally and figuratively). No matter how much you may wish it, you cannot ‘plan’ your experience. With that said, writing out my birth preferences really helped me to better understand the labor and delivery process and the decisions that I had to make during it. Here are a few of my top tips for writing a birth plan (along with a few photos from Violet’s birth):

1. The most important thing is to choose the right birthing attendant. I think this is really difficult to do, because even if you find the perfect obstetrician or midwife they are often part of a larger practice and may not be the person on call when you are in labor. I got lucky and my favorite midwife was able to deliver Violet, but I could have gotten any doctor in the practice and there were a few that I was not a huge fan of to say the least.

2. Keep your birth plan short and to the point. No busy doctor or nurse wants to read a ten page diatribe. Bullet points are your friend in this case. Keep your plan to one page if at all possible.

3. Make sure you understand everything that you write down. Don’t just copy and paste something that you find on the internet, although pre-written plans can be a good starting point.

4. Share your plan with your birthing attendant well in advance. Not only will it give your doctor or midwife a chance to read over your plan at a time when things are more low key, you will also find out in advance if they disagree with any of your choices. This actually happened to me. Although I had chosen a midwife, the practice she belonged to preferred patients to meet with as many doctors and midwives as possible, as any of them could be on call to deliver my baby. One of the doctors read over my plan and basically told me that he doesn’t really ‘do’ birth plans. He does things the way he wants to and that’s that. Needless to say I was counting my blessings when he didn’t show up to deliver Violet.

5. Stay flexible. Every labor and birth experience is different. Realize that anything can happen and it will save you from a lot of disappointment later. Definitely don’t let anyone bully you into a choice that you aren’t comfortable with, but do what is best for the health and safety of you and your baby.

While I was researching options for my birth preferences online, I came across these amazing how to posts written by a labor & delivery nurse

Writing Your Birth Plan: Tips from an L&D Nurse, Part I

Top Ten Do’s for Writing Your Birth Plan: Tips from an L&D Nurse, Part II

I also really like a few points made on this site:

A birth plan will NOT:

1. Change your health care provider’s style of practice, personality or protocols
2. Script the nature of your labor.
3. Ensure you have a satisfying labor.

In my case my midwife followed my birth ‘plan’ as closely as possible, but I’m glad that I remained flexible throughout the process. A few of my main preferences were:

  • No offering pain medication (I was open to getting an epidural, but wanted to request it on my own rather than feeling pressured into it)
  • No episiotomy
  • Nurse as soon as possible after the birth
  • No pacifiers, bottles, or formula

And here’s what happened in actuality:

  • Although my midwife did not offer me pain medication, the nurses did (and frequently).
  • I did not receive an episiotomy and I did tear naturally (ouch!)
  • Violet was given a pacifier fairly quickly after birth. Before I even arrived at the NICU one of those little orange gumdrops was popped into her mouth. Luckily it didn’t impede breastfeeding in any way, but I’ll admit I was pretty annoyed. She was not, however, given a bottle or formula.


The next time around, I think the only change I would make is to choose a midwife at a smaller practice. Although I got lucky with Violet’s birth, the next time I could easily get the jerk who ‘does what he wants’. Did you have a birth plan when you were in labor? If so, what was your experience?


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