A birth plan communicates the vision and expectations a mom has for the labor and delivery of her baby. A clear birth plan allows the labor coach, nurses and physicians to know more about the expectant mom, how she has prepared for the baby and what she wants from the birthing experience.
“Everyone involved benefits from a well thought-out birth plan,” says Allison Wierda Suttle, MD, an OB/GYN specialist at Sanford Clinic Women’s Health. “A birth plan opens the lines of communication between an expectant mom and her physician. It helps educate the mom regarding the labor and delivery options available to and assists in identifying and communicating her wishes to caregivers,” says Dr. Wierda Suttle.
“I want to know as much about my patients as I can. Understanding my patient’s wishes allows me to mange her labor in a manner most suited to her specific wants and needs,” said Dr. Wierda Suttle.
A birth plan addresses issues ranging from who will be in the delivery room to pain management and newborn care instructions. “I address birth planning with my patients early in the pregnancy. We start by reviewing a childbirth plan worksheet and discussing multiple labor and delivery alternatives. This gives expectant moms an opportunity to learn about the options available to them — with plenty of time to ask questions. We try to have the birth plan completed by the 32nd week of pregnancy,” said Dr. Wierda Suttle.
While there is no way an expectant mom can control every aspect of labor and delivery, the birth plan allows her to make her wishes clear. Dr. Wierda Suttle reminds her patients to stay flexible in case something comes up which requires the birth team to depart from the plan. “Ideally, we stick to the birth plan, however sometimes we need to leave room open to explore other options,” says Dr. Wierda Suttle.
Each birth plan is as unique as the woman who writes it. Some common components of a birth plan include:
- Who can be present during the labor
- Who can be present during the delivery of the baby
- Comfort measures the mom would like to use during labor, including whirlpool, music, breathing techniques or massage
- Pain relief techniques the mom would like to consider during labor, including IV medications, epidurals or local anesthesia
- Preferences for fetal monitoring
- Religious requests
- Photography preferences
- Who should cut the umbilical cord
- Preference for eyewear – including glasses or contacts
- Breastfeeding preferences
- Will the baby room-in or go to the nursery
- Amount of time the mom plans to stay in the hospital after the birth of her baby
- Pertinent information regarding previous deliveries
A copy of the completed birth plan should be on file with the expectant mother’s medical records. She should also bring an extra copy with her to the hospital.
Dr. Wierda Suttle recommends her patients attend childbirth classes during their pregnancy. “There are multiple types of childbirth classes and schedules available for today’s mom. Classes and tours help the expectant mom and her partner understand the birthing process and reduce anxiety about the delivery,” she says.
Visit www.sanfordclinicwomenshealth.org to download a birth planning worksheet and learn more about preparing for the birth of a new baby.