By: Brittnee Fehr
Chances are, if you are pregnant, you most likely put a ton of mental energy into imagining your big delivery day and how it’ll all play out. The good, the bad, the ugly come flooding into your mind, add in a high dose of pregnancy hormones and for some of you, this type of thought process becomes a recipe for disaster, as anxiety and fear take over.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. If you crave calmness, relaxation and a positive mindset leading up to your labor, developing a birth plan is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your unborn child. Communicating your wishes to midwives, nurses and doctors who will be supporting you during labor, will give you peace of mind and confidence in knowing that everyone has your best interest at heart throughout the entire birth process and even after labor. Keep in mind, that with anything in life, nothing is guaranteed or set in stone either, so learn to exercise your own personal strength and embrace being open-minded if things don’t go according to plan.
Do as much research as you can before writing up your plan. There are many online resources with wonderful tips and advice on what to include in your personal birth agenda. Join a handful of moms’ groups on social media and reach out to other mothers who have been in your position before. They would be more than happy to give you helpful tips and pointers, including do’s and don’ts regarding your own birth journey. Talking with your husband or birth partner is very crucial too. Make sure they fully understand your wishes and the type of birth that you would like to have. How does your partner see their role and how do you see your partner or spouse participating? Please note that if you are having a planned C-section, you can absolutely still write up a birth plan.
The following are important categories to include in your birth plan (in no particular order).
Positions for birth and labor:
Which positions would you like to try while in labor? Do you want to remain lying in bed, propped up on pillows or do you prefer squatting, walking or standing in a warm shower? You absolutely have a choice in this matter, you don’t have to remain confined to a hospital bed for your entire labor.
Tools and props:
Are you open to giving birth in a pool? Do you prefer to use a birth ball? Would you like your lower back massaged with a massage tool during contractions? Make a note of the types of equipment that you would like to assist you.
Your birth partner:
Who would you like to have with you while you’re in labor? Do you want this person to be present the entire time, or only for certain procedures?
Pain relief doesn’t just include conventional drugs. Included in this category are natural techniques used to reduce your pain, without the intervention of pharmaceuticals. Breathing (especially deep breathing techniques to allow for more oxygen to flow through your body), relaxation practices, TENS machine, water, massage, acupuncture. Make sure to also include the types of pain relief that you prefer to avoid using.
It is important to research the side effects of certain pharmaceuticals on your unborn baby, as most drugs do cross the placenta. The drug is not only absorbed by your own body, but the babies as well. Since it has to be processed by the babies’ body and liver, it can sometimes be very taxing on such a small body system.
Speeding up labor:
Sometimes labors slow down, or prove to be extremely long. Would you like your midwife or doctor to help speed up the process? Or would you like to wait it out and see what happens naturally?
Monitoring your babies heart rate:
Most likely, if your labor is straightforward, your babies heart rate will be monitored intermittently (roughly every 15 minutes). If you give birth in a hospital setting, you may also have the option to wear a belt around your stomach/waist and the babies heart rate will be monitored with a continuous electronic monitoring system.
You can ask your delivery team what options are available to you (such as forceps), when the time comes. At the end of your labor, you may require some assistance.
Delayed cord clamping:
Delaying clamping lets blood continue to flow from the placenta to the newborn baby after delivery. It has been suggested that this blood can greatly benefit newborns, especially preterm babies. Do a quick internet search to discover the many benefits of delayed cord clamping.
Third Stage of birth (Delivery of the placenta):
You have the option to deliver your placenta naturally or you can choose an injection to help speed up the process, this is called a managed third stage. Most likely, if you give birth in a hospital, the injection could be pushed on you as it is normal protocol, but do realize that you always have a voice in this matter.
Do you prefer to have your baby placed directly on your bare chest or stomach? Another option is the baby can be cleaned up by the delivery nurses before they are handed to you. Immediate skin-to skin is extremely valuable because it creates an immediate bond between child and mother (or father). Skin-to-skin contact releases prolactin and stimulates oxytocin (special hormones) which help with milk production. The senses of smell, sight, touch, taste and hearing will all be stimulated in skin-to-skin which have very positive calming effects on both mother/father and baby.
Research has found that delaying bathing a newborn was associated with a significant increase in exclusive breastfeeding rates, which may be due to limiting stress following delivery, when infants are working to stabilize their temperatures. The vernix, removed during early bathing, contains antimicrobial proteins that are active against group B strep, E. coli and other common perinatal pathogens. Remember that babies are not born dirty, so a quick towel rub should do the trick. Delaying a bath for at least 24 hours or until many days after is extremely beneficial.
Feeding your baby:
Here you can state if you wish to immediately breastfeed or use formula. This is an essential topic to research beforehand, as there is wealth of information out there about the advantages of breastfeeding. However, if you are not able to breastfeed do not beat yourself up over this, as fed is best.
All in all, developing a birth plan will ensure that your voice will be heard by everyone around you throughout the birth process, even though you might not be able to do much speaking. Written communication is key, because with all of the high stress and excitement in the delivery room, you most likely will be preoccupied, focusing on your contractions. How empowering is it that every single contraction will bring you one step closer to meeting your little miracle? You got this mama!
Sample Birth Plan:
Your First Name, Last Name Birth Preferences
- I would like my husband/boyfriend/fiancé/Mother etc. First Name, Last Name, in the room with me at all times
- I would prefer not to have an IV until medically necessary
- If inducing or augmenting labor becomes necessary, I would like to try walking and nipple stimulation
- I would like to have fetal heart rate monitored during labor, if wireless monitoring is available
- I prefer minimal vaginal exams throughout labor, I’d also prefer the same person do the exam (if available to me)
- During a vaginal exam, I prefer not to have any membranes broken unless there is an emergency situation
- I would like to try to give birth using no medications, I will ask if I need something; please don’t ask me unless it is medically necessary to take medication
- I would like the freedom to move, walk around and change positions throughout labor and into pushing
- I would prefer to tear than to have an episiotomy (unless I’m having a medical emergency)
- I would like the option of using a warm compress on my perineum while pushing the baby’s head out
- I am open to the use of vacuum if medically necessary; we can discuss forceps if medically necessary but I prefer vacuum over forceps
- I would like to do delayed cord clamping and would like to wait until the umbilical cord stops pulsating before it is clamped and cut
- As long as the baby is healthy, I would like immediate skin to skin contact with my baby after birth in order to bond with him
- I would like all newborn procedures explained to me and to take place in my presence
- If I cannot be with my baby, I would like my husband to be with him/her at all times
- We wish to give our baby his/her first bath at home
- Please do not give my baby any antibiotic eye treatment or vaccinations
- I plan to breastfeed