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Birth Plan Basics

Everyone’s idea of the perfect birth is different, and chances are it won’t go according to plan. That doesn't mean you can't be prepared. We asked Birth Day Presence co-founder Jada Shapiro to give us the lowdown on how to put together the perfect birth. Here's 8 tips that will help you lay the foundation for the perfect birth day.

1. Figure out where you want to give birth and choose your care providers accordingly. The most important decisions, in our opinion, are who is going to deliver your baby and where do you want to give birth. Some of what you are hoping for should influence who you hire as your birth team and where you plan to give birth. So consider whether you would like to use pain medication or not during your birth. Consider how much freedom of movement you would like to have. Do you want to have the option to give birth in a tub? Do you want to be able to bring lots of support people with you? Do you hope to avoid a cesarean unless absolutely medically necessary? All these factors will dictate your choices. The mom who hopes to give birth in the water is not going to choose Labor and Delivery in a hospital. The mom who definitely wants to use an epidural early in her labor is not going to give birth in a birthing center. The mom who truly hopes to avoid an unnecessary cesarean will not work with a doctor who has a 50% c-section rate.

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2. Be clear with your provider...and your partner. Sit down, alone or with your partner, and really get clear on what is most important to you. The more clear you are, the more effective you will be at communicating your hopes to your care provider. Take this document into your care provider well before you give birth to make sure you and your midwife or doctor are on the same page about giving birth. As hard as it is to switch care providers mid-pregnancy, it is much harder to find out during labor that they don’t support you!

3. Keep it short, concise and positive! You should keep your birth plan to 1-2 pages max. Ideally one page. Resume-like. Clear and concise. And in a positive voice. The last thing anyone wants to receive is a long list of things they don’t want you to do to them. So for example, don’t write: Don’t give me an IV. Better: I would prefer to eat and drink to remain hydrated and nourished. Please offer me an IV only in the case that I am dehydrated or need specific medicines for my labor.

4. Make a copy for everyone who's taking part. Give a copy to your midwife or doctor, bring one for your nurse, give one to your doula, and have three extra copies. Keep it in a folder with other important documents in your birth bag.

5. Hand it over with an explanation...and good manners. The best way to get a nurse to read your birth preferences is to take a moment to introduce yourself to her, and then kindly ask if she would mind reading through some of your preferences when she has a little time. Respect her time and her job and you will find you will have a lot easier time with some of the negotiable aspects of childbirth. Note: If you are refusing all care that is standard where you plan to give birth, you may want to switch care providers or birth places.

6. Keep it organized. We generally recommend that you begin with a short paragraph directed to your care provider, in which you thank them for assisting you with the pregnancy and birth and tell them that the following are your wishes under ideal conditions. It helps to note that you are happy to have their medical expertise and that you love to be informed and hope that they will inform you about anything which needs to be done during their care. Then organize your birth plan by the stages of labor. You can also add in a bit about in case induction becomes necessary and in case of cesarean birth.

7. Even a home birth can benefit from a plan, especially when thinking about contingencies. In a home birth setting, you can be a bit more luxurious with your vision, including how you envision laboring, what kind of pain relief you imagine might help and environmental factors that will help you. You should absolutely write an “In Case of Transfer Plan” though. This can be packed in your hospital bag which will only come out if your midwife determines you need to give birth at the hospital.

8. Remember that birth seldom goes according to your plan. You should plan that birth won’t go according to your plan! Going to a childbirth class that addresses issues like this and helps prepare women to meet whatever their labor asks of them can help. Talking with a therapist or close friends or your doctor or midwife can also help. If you find that in writing your birth plan, you are adamant about avoiding a procedure, try to talk with your care provider about how best to deal with the procedure if it becomes medically necessary. Your birth preferences are a general guideline. Ultimately, if medical necessity dictates changes in the labor, hopefully you have chosen a care provider you trust! The best we can do for ourselves as birthing mothers is choose the best team of support and then step back and let labor unfold.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As mamas we want our babies to be safe, and that's what makes what happened to Glee actress Naya Rivera and her 4-year-old son Josey so heartbreaking.

On July 13, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department announced the 33-year-old mother's body was found at Lake Piru, five days after her son was found floating alone on a rented boat. According to Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, Rivera's last action was to save her son.

"We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point in her journey. It was at that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water," Ayub explained, adding that Rivera's son was wearing his life vest, but the adult life vest was left on the unanchored boat.

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Ayub says exactly what caused the drowning is still speculation but investigators believe the boat started drifting and that Rivera "mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat but not enough to save herself."

Our hearts are breaking for Josey and his dad right now. So much is unknown about what happened on Lake Piru but one thing is crystal clear: Naya Rivera has always loved her son with all her heart.

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