Creating a birth plan

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Your personalized birth experience

One of the best ways to share your hopes and desires for your labor and delivery is to create a birth plan (PDF).

A birth plan helps you think through the choices you may have during labor and the exciting moments right after your baby is born. A birth plan also allows you to communicate your preferences to the labor and delivery staff who will care for you and your baby.

Couple visiting with doctorTry to be flexible — labor and birth do not always go exactly as planned, and changes to your birth plan may be necessary to ensure the health and safety of you and your baby.

"Remember that everyone's goal is the same: for mom and baby to be healthy and safe," says Lori Harrison, a Kaiser Permanente nurse practitioner in Hawaii.

And remember, a birth plan is not a contract. You can change your mind at any time.

Types of birth

It's important to learn about the different types of birth so you can think about how you would like to have your baby. The information will also help prepare you in case the unexpected happens and your plan needs to change.

Questions to ask yourself

Ask yourself the following questions and think through what you want for the big day. Then print out your birth plan (PDF) and bring it with you to your next prenatal appointment to discuss your preferences with your doctor or other medical professional.

  • Where do you want to deliver your baby?
  • What type of birthing environment do you want to create? Would you like the lights in your delivery room to be lowered? Do you want to play music? Be sure to add any items you'll bring from home to your hospital checklist.
  • Do you want to limit the number of guests or phone calls you receive?
  • Do you want pain medications during labor and delivery? What are your plans for non-drug comfort measures, such as massage or rhythmic breathing?
  • Would you like to be out of bed as much as possible during labor?
  • Do you have any birthing position preferences? Your options may include lying on your back, lying on your side, on your hands and knees, squatting, leaning, or semi-sitting.
  • Would you like to see or touch the baby's head as it crowns (passes through the birth canal)?
  • What are your preferences for your first contact with the baby? Would you like to hold your baby skin to skin immediately after delivery?
  • Would you prefer to delay newborn procedures (such as cord-clamping, bathing, measuring, physical exam, eye medication, vitamin K injection) during the first hour so you have a chance to feed and bond with your baby? Would you like these procedures explained to you before they are done and carried out in front of you?
  • Do you plan to breastfeed your baby while in the hospital? Would you like to get help with breastfeeding while you are there?
  • Are there other personal, religious, or cultural traditions you would like to discuss with your practitioner?

Source: Adapted from copyrighted material of The Permanente Medical Group, Inc.

Reviewed by: Jeff Convissar, MD, November 2015
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2015 Kaiser Permanente

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