Labor is really hard to predict, so can a birth plan checklist really help? Even if you knew the exact day of conception it is very difficult to know when you will actually go into labor. Only about 4% of women will give birth on their due date. And that’s not the only thing that we can’t predict. That is why having a birth plan is so beneficial.
Having a birth plan helps you understand what is important to you and communicate that to your care providers. It can also help you have more educated discussions about risks and benefits of different interventions. I caution you to not set your plan in stone as things are likely to not go perfectly to plan. I have delivered a few babies in the ER and let me tell you it was neither their ideal plan or mine. My goal here is to help you be prepared, know what really matters to you, and still remain flexible to the possibilities of things changing.
So What is a Birth Plan?
It is a document that communicates to your care team what your preferences are related to your delivery and postpartum period. This would include things such as pain management, who you want present during your birth, postpartum care, and newborn procedures.
Take this checklist at the end of this post and review some of your options. Ask to schedule a little extra time at one of your next appointments with your provider so you can discuss your birth options. This guide will help you have an open discussion about what may be available to you and what they would recommend. Remember you are a team and have the same goal in mind.
Why is it Beneficial to Have a Birth Plan Checklist?
You have to make a lot of decisions when your baby is born. It’s good to have time in advance to think through how you feel about your potential options and what you feel comfortable with. Having time to process your options allows you to prepare so you don’t feel pressured into making a decision about your care that might not fully understand or agree with.
A birth plan can help you determine what you even need to consider prior to your delivery. I like to think of it as a road map when you are traveling in a new city (especially if this is your first baby and don’t what options are available and why they might be a good option). Sometimes there are multiple ways to get to a destination (healthy mom and baby) with different activities along the way that might enhance your trip. You can still get to your final destination but it might look different than you planned Remember you’ve never been here before or things might have changed since you last visited. Your care team (Doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas) live in this city and are here every day. By having a birth plan, it helps them understand what kind of experience you want to have on your “trip” and guide you in a new direction that will be best for you while still taking into consideration your preferences.
How Having a Birth Doula Can Help Make Sure You Are Supported
In addition to having a birth plan a birth doula can help to be your advocate during your labor. A birth doula’s role is to provide physical, emotional and informational support before, during, and shortly after childbirth for their client. They are birthing professionals that can help you digest information your care providers give you and help you make decisions based on the preferences you have stated in conversations and your birth plan checklist. Doula’s are great advocates especially in moments where it is difficult to advocate for yourself. They are not neccesary, but could be a great addition to your birthing experience.
When Should I Make a Birth Plan Checklist?
There is no best timing for making your birth plan checklist, but it’s a good idea to create your birth plan around 28 weeks (the beginning of the third trimester). It’s best to have time to really consider your desires and have open discussions with your provider before labor starts. You really can’t predict labor so starting early is always a good idea.
What Do I Include in My Birth Plan?
The birth plan checklist help you narrow down your preferences and help you set some birthing goals you can share with your providers. Things you will consider in your birth plan include desired delivery method, support partners present at delivery, preferences during labor, pain relief, immediate post delivery care, neonatal care preferences, and more. The PDF checklist at the bottom of this page will contain the most updated list to help guide you through your options. It is then important to keep your plan that you share with your care team to 1-2 pages. This will help them understand your priorities in a clear and concise fashion.
Frequently Asked Questions
A birth plan checklist can be very beneficial in helping you communicate your preferences and facilitate open informed dialog as your birth experience develops. Things are likely to not go perfectly as planned but being aware of your options and making your providers aware of some of your preferences can help guide the decision making process so that the overall outcomes are positive.
Using this birth plan checklist will give you specific options and help you know what discussions you need to have with your providers at the beginning of your third trimester so everyone feels prepared no matter when labor occurs.
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.