How to Plan Your Dream Birth

Thoughtful pregnant woman looking out the window

Whether it’s your first baby or your fourth, you probably have a vision for how you’d like your labor and delivery to play out. Perhaps you prefer to go as long as possible without using medication, even over-the-counter painkillers. Or maybe you’d like it to be a family affair, with your older children, in-laws and parents around you.

Ideally, by the time the third trimester rolls around, you’ve already begun discussing your plans with your doctor or midwife. But how do you keep track of the details and, more important, make sure your labor and birth experience hews close to what you hoped for when that first contraction hits? By outlining every detail in writing and sharing your wishes with your partner and family members who’ll be there when the time comes. This way, they’ll know how to best advocate for you so your experience mirrors as closely as possible what you’ve longed for.


Ready to draft your own birth plan? Get started by thinking about the following questions, keeping in mind that your hospital/birthing center may not offer all these options, and that sometimes medical necessity means that the birth can’t go exactly as you envisioned it – the important thing is your baby’s well being.

Labor

  • Who would you like to accompany you to the hospital?
  • What type of room would you prefer to labor in – birthing center/labor-delivery-postpartum (aka all-in-one) room/private room/semi-private room/whatever’s available?
  • Nurses and doctors/midwives will likely come and go as needed, but are you open to having medical residents and/or students stop in?
  • Would you like to wear scrubs or your own clothes?
  • How do you feel about enemas and other preparatory steps (shaving, etc.)?
  • Would you like to bring anything to help you relax during labor (a CD player, scented candles, massage oils)? Check whether the hospital or birthing center can accommodate them.
  • Would you prefer to be able to eat and/or drink while in labor, as long as it doesn’t interfere with any medical procedures?
  • How do you feel about fetal monitoring? Continuous or intermittent?
  • Do you want to be hooked up to an IV? Or have a heparin lock started? (Ask your doctor if you’re not sure what these meds are.)
  • How do you feel about pain medication? If you want it – or at least the possibility of using it – which kind would you prefer?
  • How do you feel about epidurals? Under what circumstances would you want one to be administered?  And when – in the middle of labor or when you feel you can’t go it alone any longer?
  • If there’s a hot tub, would you like to be able to labor in it? Are there any other labor regimens you’d like to use (squatting bar, etc.)?
  • Would you be open to having your water broken to expedite delivery if the doctor thinks it’s necessary?

Delivery

  • Who would you like to have in the room when you give birth?
  • Do you want cameras or video recorders in the room? If so, who will in charge?
  • Would you be open to an episiotomy? Or would you prefer to tear naturally, if it comes down to that?
  • In the event your doctor or midwife suggests a C-section, would you like a second opinion if there’s time? If permitted, do you want your partner to be in the room with you during the procedure?
  • Would you like to try pushing for as long as you are able as long as the baby’s okay?
  • Would you like to use a mirror to be able to see the baby crown as you push?
  • Would you like your partner or someone else in your group cut the cord?
  • Would you like to save the umbilical cord?
  • Are you preserving/donating the cord blood?

Post-birth

  • Would you like to hold the baby immediately after birth, before any non-essential procedures are done? Or are you fine either way? What about your partner?
  • Would you like to nurse the baby soon after he/she is cleaned up by the medical/birth center staff?
  • Would you like pain meds postpartum?
  • How soon after delivery do you hope to go home?
  • Is your partner staying the night at the hospital or birthing center if you are?
  • Will the baby be rooming in with you or bunking at the nursery? If your baby’s at the nursery, would you like them to bring him/her to you for feedings?
  • Do you think you would prefer to breastfeed or bottle-feed?
  • Is the staff allowed to feed the baby formula? If so, what brand?
  • If the baby’s a boy, is he going to be circumcised at the hospital?
  • Do you want visitors? If so, how many at a time?
  • Do you have a pediatrician to check out the baby so you all can be discharged, or are you fine with using whichever doctor is on baby rotation?
  • If it’s not hospital policy to be brought to the front of the building in a wheelchair, would you prefer to walk?

This information is not a substitute for personal medical, psychiatric or psychological advice.