Expectful’s Community Guide, Anna Gannon, interviews midwife & creator of Love Your Birth Course, Anne Margolis on how to create your ideal birth plan.
1. What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is where you write out how you envision your birth from start to finish. As you’ll see in the template birth plan I provide below, a birth plan is a list of preferences in regards to your birth experience. It doesn’t have to be long, it could be as simple as a checklist or a few paragraphs of what you envision. It’s really just about addressing your preferences, from things as broad as whether or not you want to be touched while in labor, to if you wish for medical intervention or not.
2. Why do you think having a birth plan is so beneficial?
You can think about planning your birth, like you would a wedding. If you were getting married, you wouldn’t just wing it – you’d plan so that it can have the best possible outcome regardless of the issues that might arise the day of. That’s why it’s important to have these visions and plans – it’s like setting the foundation for the birth.
I also believe in the power of intention and the law of attraction – so if a woman really writes out her desires, meditates on them, and has clear intentions, she’s more likely to have an experience as close to the one she wants as possible.
3. When do you recommend women start putting together a birth plan?
I recommend you marinate in the topics I provide in the template below for awhile. Research them through your pregnancy and get to know what you really prefer. As far as when you should start writing it, I usually recommend around 32 weeks to have something on paper. You don’t want to wait to the last minute because you could go into labor early so just keep it around 32 to 34 weeks.
4. What should a birth plan look like? What specifically should be covered on it?
Below is the template that I provide all of my clients with. As a foundational step, start by imagining your absolute dream birth. After marinating on your desired outcomes, write it in your journal, feeling free to create some art about it as well. Use this as a reference as you fill out the remainder of your birth plan.
Anne Margolis’s Ideal Birth Plan Guide
Begin by asking yourself these three questions:
1. What are your top 5 priorities when it comes to your birth experience?
2. What are some requests you have that you think are very unique to you?
3. Is there anything you know that you would really not like during your birth?
Next, write down your feelings on the following common topics and routine interventions:
- Eating and drinking in labor freely or not
- Being mobile or confined to the bed
- Wearing a hospital gown or your own clothes
- Freedom to vocalize and be completely uninhibited or being inhibited in any way
- Noise and lighting preferences
- The language you and your team uses to describe what is going on -is it empowering and encouraging, or have a negative connotation for you?
- Your support team – are they the support you really need? Can you be completely uninhibited with them? Or does anyone trigger fear or tension or undermine your self confidence?
- Labor progress assessment – rigid guidelines per Friedman Curve or allowing for wide variations when all is well
- Routine Induction or Augmentation of labor (medically or naturally) or allowing labor to start and progress on its own
- Routine IVs and Saline Locks
- Method of fetal monitoring – continuous or intermittent
- Vaginal exams and their frequency
- Artificial breaking bag of water (rupture of membranes) or allowing your bag of waters to release spontaneously
- Medications for pain relief or natural
- Medication to induce sleep versus natural remedies
- Routine IV antibiotics to prevent infection when all is well and there is no infection
- Routine episiotomy or allowing your body to stretch naturally, and be repaired if needed
- Directed versus instinctual pushing
- Allowing for the resting phase between being fully dilated and urge to push
- Forceps or vacuum assisted birth
- Cesarean section
- Who you want to catch your baby? Would it help you to touch your baby’s head as you’re a birthing?
- Who you want to discover the gender? You and your partner or the attendants?
- Immediate skin-to-skin, mother led discovery or immediate newborn care separate from you
- Keeping baby with you at all times, without separation when all is normal, versus baby exams and procedures done in the nursery
- Safeguarding the sacred pause, first hour after birth
- Immediate versus delayed optimal cord clamping; or not clamping the cord until you birth placenta, or at all and allow it to naturally fall off (lotus birth)
- Keeping the placenta for ceremonial burial and/or ingestion
- Early breastfeeding without supplementation, and breastfeeding support
- Newborn procedures including antibiotic eye ointment, vitamin K shot, hepatitis B vaccine, audiology testing, newborn blood screening, and screening and treatment for physiological and pathological jaundice
5. After a woman creates her birth plan, who should she be sharing it with and how do you recommend she shares it?
As you research your preferences throughout your pregnancy, begin discussing them with your partner and any other close friends or family that will be in the room. This will help you be able to talk through them and process more.
Then when you have the birth plan done, sit down and run through it again with everyone who will be in the room, including your health care provider. I also think that there should be a copy for the nurses that will be taking care of you, because it’s important that you don’t have to make these decisions or explain your preferences in the heat of the moment, they should be known already.
I also encourage that all birth plans be flexible, and if you need to address something in the moment, that of course has to happen. But the less you have to battle the staff or argue a point, the more you can stay in your right brain – your instinctual brain, which is where you want to be.
6. What is your number one piece of advice for women who are in the middle of birth and their birth is going the opposite as planned?
If I’m sitting with a woman whose birth is going a different direction than originally planned, I turn to her with a lot of love in my heart and first say – I’m sorry that this isn’t going as you planned, but now is the time to remember all the things I’ve taught you. First and foremost being to embrace whatever is happening, because it’s happening, and when you argue with reality, you lose 100% of the time.
No matter what, this is your journey. It’s the journey that you and your baby are meant to have. Know that the healing with come later but for now, just do your best to stay present for this experience as it unfolds.
Want to access Anne’s Love Your Birth course? Click here and use the promo code EXPECTFUL at checkout for 25% off.