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Should you write a birth plan?

A birth plan can help you avoid miscommunication and disappointment about what happens when you have your baby.

Every birth, like every baby, is unique. Though no one can predict or plan all the details of any labor and delivery, some women choose to write out their preferences in a birth plan.

Discuss your ideas with your labor partner and your doctor to help you develop your birth plan. Once it's finished, you can give copies to your doctor and birthing facility so that everyone has one to refer to.

Though not all of your preferences may be options for you, talking about them ahead of time helps avoid conflict and miscommunication later on.

Issues you may address in a birth plan include:

Location. You may be able to choose where you'd like to have your baby, such as in a birthing room or in a labor and delivery room. You may also be able to play music, choose the lighting or bring some items from home to make you feel more comfortable.

Another choice to consider is the point in your labor when you want to leave home for the hospital or birthing center.

Who will be with you. This can include whom you want with you during labor and delivery, what you'd like them to do and whether you'd like them in the operating room if you need an unplanned cesarean delivery.

Pain relief. Women have many options for pain relief during labor. Some women choose nonmedical methods, such as relaxation and breathing exercises, massage, distractions, or concentrating on a focal point, such as a picture or small object. Other women prefer analgesics, which curb pain, or anesthetics, which block physical sensations in small or large areas of the body.

Labor positions. You may have the choice to move around or stay still during labor, or choose the position you prefer for delivery.

Medical procedures. The following can be discussed ahead of time:

  • Episiotomies.
  • Induced labor.
  • Use of forceps or a vacuum to assist delivery.
  • Fetal monitoring.
  • Your feelings about having a cesarean delivery.

What happens after birth. You can request to have your baby placed on your chest directly after delivery, for example, or to be kept in your room or placed in the nursery.

Photography. You may want pictures or a videotape of some or all of the birth. You can decide ahead of time who will handle the camera and detail what parts of the process you do and don't want photographed.

A team effort

Some options may not be available because of your or your baby's health or the policies of the hospital or birthing center. Your doctor can help you work out any necessary compromises.

Remember also that no one can predict exactly what will happen during your labor and delivery. If labor is moving too quickly or slowly, for example, some medicines or procedures may become medically necessary. Your health and your baby's always come first.

But a birth plan can help ensure that as many of your preferences as possible will be met.

Reviewed 10/31/2022

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