Writing an Effective Birth Plan: Your Comprehensive Guide

birth plan baby and parents

Welcome to our guide on creating a birth plan, an essential tool for expectant parents to communicate their preferences before, during, and after childbirth. In this blog post, we'll delve into the importance of a well-thought-out birth plan and what to include to ensure a positive birthing experience.

The Value of a Birth Plan

What does a “successful birth” look like to you? In my mind, I see a “successful birth” when I see a birthing person who has felt informed and empowered throughout their experience. Research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information suggests that a positive birth experience is closely linked to feelings of choice and control, and the creation of a birth plan is one of the best ways that parents-to-be can exercise their powers of choice and control, prepare for the birth, and make informed decisions throughout the birthing process. So what is a birth plan, and how can you create one for yourself? Read on!

What is a Birth Plan?

The value of a birth plan is that it provides a comprehensive overview of all the decisions you may be faced with throughout your birthing journey.  By taking the time on the front end to consider the different options and avenues that your birth could take, you set yourself up for feeling more empowered and confident if and when those decisions actually need to be made. A birth plan is always flexible and should be approached as a “version 1.0,” a set of guiding principles that you and your birth team can use to sketch a path forward, but that you can also modify at any time as the situation demands.

What to Include in Your Birth Plan

1. Delivery Preferences: Your birth plan should start by outlining your preferences for the type of delivery. Where do you plan to deliver? Do you have any reason to stipulate vaginal versus C-section? In a perfect situation, how would your delivery look?

2. Pain Management: Outline your preferred methods for approaching pain management. Specify if you want an epidural or if you prefer alternative methods such as acupressure, massage, or water immersion. Be clear about when you'd like to use these techniques.

3. Support System: Communicate who you want in the delivery room to provide emotional support. This may include your partner, parents, or a doula who has been with you throughout your pregnancy, understanding your unique needs.

4. Newborn Preferences: Your birth plan can also extend to your newborn's first moments. Specify how you'd like to greet your baby, including whether you want immediate skin-to-skin contact, delayed bath and assessments, rooming in, circumcision, or other preferences. This is the section that took me the longest to write, because there are so many decisions to be made, and so many steps are just de rigeur in our US-birthing society today, but you–as an informed parent–may have different ideas! Set aside a good chunk of time to review these preferences and decisions with an informed birth worker, like your doula.

5. Feeding Choices: If you have preferences for feeding your newborn, such as breastfeeding or using formula, clearly state them in your plan. This is also a place to include notes about avoiding pacifiers or bottles, for example. If you plan to have a lactation consultant or family member present for support, or if you would like to meet with a lactation consultant on staff at the facility, include this information.

6. Stem Cell Banking: You’ll likely get asked about if you want to participate in stem cell banking from your baby's umbilical cord, and if you’re like me, you’ll be incredibly confused. Yes, it’s a whole thing, and it takes some time to look into and consider your options. What better place to do that than in writing your birth plan? Your medical team can coordinate with the experts to ensure this process is carried out as per your wishes.

7. Placenta Handling: Express your preferences regarding what should be done with the placenta after childbirth. Some parents opt for encapsulation, donation, or specific cultural practices. Your plan ensures your desires are respected.

8. Recording Memories: Consider whether you want to document your baby's delivery through photographs or videos. Check with your birthing place if this is possible and include your preferences in your plan.

Won’t My Providers Roll Their Eyes at Me?

This was a worry of mine when I wrote my own birth plan. And I wish I could take back every moment I spent fretting about that. It doesn’t matter what they think. By sharing your birth plan with them, you are encouraging them to see you as a person who advocates for herself, who requires that decisions be made with her rather than for her. There are things you can do to make your birth plan ultra-user-friendly for the birth team (icons like this one from Natural Mama instead of a college essay, for example), but I encourage you to share your birth plan confidently with anyone who is interacting with you throughout the birth experience. And just as you are asking them to do, I encourage you to approach each conversation with an open mind! Nothing about a birth plan is ever set in stone.

While a birth plan cannot guarantee a complication-free birth, it empowers expectant parents with choices that make the birthing experience more satisfying and informed. It educates you about a wide range of options, minimizing the risk of unnecessary complications. 

At Nessle, we're here to support you through this process. Visit our website to connect with professionals who can guide you in creating a birth plan tailored to your needs and convictions. Here are just a few examples of experts you could work with to build your own birth plan:

Creating a Birth Plan (1-on-1) with Yvonna

Birth Preferences and Advocacy (1-on-1) with Brogan

Birth Plan/Preference Appointment (1-on-1) with Cierra

Prenatal Support (1-on-1) with Allision

Connect with Expert Support on Nessle Today!
Carly B

Carly B

Carly is a postpartum doula and Certified Lactation Consultant (CLC) based in the West End of Richmond, Virginia.