The day you give birth to your child, whether it's your first or your fifth, is incredibly special and life-changing. Many expectant parents these days are hoping not only for a healthy baby and a safe labor, but a calm, happy and supported experience. That's one reason why birth plans have become so popular in recent years.
As a doula (a non-medical professional who provides emotional, physical and mental support before, during and after birth), I encourage my clients to write their "birth preferences," rather than a "birth plan." Preferences are a little more flexible than plans and a little more open to the many scenarios that can take place during childbirth. Writing up your birth preferences can clarify your wishes and help you understand your options. Plus, thinking through your reasoning can be a great introduction to the 18-plus years’ worth of decisions you'll have to make as a parent! So here are a few tips for writing up your birth plan or birth preferences sheet.
Step 1: Do your research. Find out about the physiological process of birth and common medical interventions (like Pitocin, a medication commonly used to augment labor) and newborn procedures (like erythromycin ointment). Ask your doctor or midwife to direct you toward evidence-based sources of information on these topics. I like the website evidencebasedbirth.com, but your provider will also have great resources for you.
Step 2: Consider carefully. Ponder and discuss your options with your birth team, including your provider. Think about your reasons and your motivations, as well as what you would be comfortable with in the event of an emergency or other unexpected circumstance. It's a good idea to do some research about hospital or provider policies (like eating and drinking during labor) to make sure you understand them—so you won't have to change your plan once you're in the throes of contractions!
As a doula (a non-medical professional who provides emotional, physical and mental support before, during and after birth), I encourage my clients to write their "birth preferences," rather than a "birth plan."
Step 3: Choose the five most important things. Do you want your baby to be skin-to-skin with you immediately after birth? Are you hoping to have calm music and low lights? Would you like a family member to cut the baby's cord? In the interest of keeping things concise, you'll want to put the largest focus on five to seven choices you feel strongly about. Don't care quite so much about whether or not you have an IV or fetal monitoring? Then it's likely safe to leave those off.
Keep it short, and make it fun. Use bold headings and titles (like "During Labor" and "After Baby Is Here") with bullet points so information is easily readable and understandable. I've even seen picture-based birth preferences sheets, which are fun for everyone. Be sure to keep your list of birth preferences short, about one page. Use clear, positive language, such as "we hope to" rather than "we don't want."
Make sure to include your provider's name, partner's name, the name of your doula (if you have one), the names of anyone else who will be attending (such as family members) and the name of your pediatrician. It's also a good idea to include a little preemptive thank you to the medical staff.
Step 4: Have a baby! Print a few copies, pack them in your bag or place them with your birth supplies, and relax. You're going to have a baby, and it's going to be awesome.
If you are looking for some local resources regarding pregnancy and birth, check out:
Inspired Birth and Families (inspiredabq.com): Inspired offers doula services, a doula directory, childbirth classes, yoga, support groups and more in their comfy North Valley setting.
Dar a Luz Birth and Health Center (daraluzbirthcenter.org): The certified nurse midwives at Dar a Luz deliver babies of course, but the center has a host of other offerings too, including classes, breastfeeding support and yoga.
Albuquerque Birth Network (albuquerquebirthnetwork.org): The website is a comprehensive listing of birth resources in the Albuquerque area, including home birth midwives, doulas, placenta encapsulation and more!
Carrie Murphy is a writer and doula in Albuquerque. Her website is carriemurphydoula.com