Imagine this: You're in the hospital. One contraction rolls in just as the other subsides. You're exhilarated. You're nervous. But most of all, you're focused: breathe in, breathe out. And then, it happens. Your doctor furrows her brow and hits you with a big question that you aren't prepared to answer.
Saving your decision-making for the delivery room is not the smartest move. With all the focus on getting through each contraction, you're not in the mindset to consider the pros and cons of any situation. So what can you do now to make your life easier come delivery day? Make a birth plan.
What is a birth plan?
Simply put, a birth plan is a document that prompts you and your partner to consider your options during labor and delivery. It's something you create now during pregnancy and discuss with your doctor or midwife. While you can't control everything that happens leading up to your baby's birth, you do have a say in how things unfold. A birth plan encourages you to imagine your ideal birth – and make a sound, informed contingency plan.
What to include
Let's face it, you don't have a say in how long you'll be in labor or how intense your contractions will be. But there are items to decide on now, so that you don't have to break your focus on the big day.
- Pain management: Are you going au natural or opting for an epidural? When will you ask for pain meds – at 2 centimeters or 8? What comfort measures can you use if you're going drug-free?
- Pitocin: Pitocin is often used to kick-start active labor – or turn it up a notch to encourage baby's arrival. Be forewarned, the use of this drug can intensify contractions.
- Labor positions: Moving around during labor, showering or even sitting on an exercise ball can bring comfort and relief. Note that once you've had an epidural, your options for movement are very limited.
- Dad's role: Give thought to how your partner will support you through labor. Will he cut the cord once baby is born?
- Breastfeeding or skin-to-skin contact: Will you nurse your baby immediately? Or, if you're formula-feeding, will you instead snuggle your newborn skin-to-skin to foster bonding?
- Vaccinations: Will you consent wholly to baby's first shots? Read more about newborn vaccinations here.
Keep your birth plan short and concise. Type it up so it's neat and tidy and then bring it to your next prenatal appointment. Discuss your options and make sure your healthcare team can support your plan. Then, pack it away in your hospital bag for delivery day. Task your partner with handing it to your labor nurse once the action begins.
Are you planning on creating a birth plan? Tell us what you'll include in the comments below!