There are many factors to consider as you prepare for the birth of your baby and one important step is taking the time to create a written copy of your natural birth plan. A birth plan is a document that describes your expectations and wishes for the way that you would like your birthing experience to unfold. Although changes may arise and it is important to remain flexible, having a birth plan helps ensure that all of your health care providers know and respect your wishes to the best of their ability. This is particularly important if a natural, unmedicated birth is what you are seeking. The task of writing your natural birth plan may seem overwhelming at first; but let’s take a look at some of the key components you will want to include.
Your birthing environment and who and what you desire to have in it is an important consideration for your natural birth plan. Some questions to consider about the environment are:
- What family members do you wish to have present during your labor, the birth and after the baby is born?
- Do you plan to have a doula?
- Do you wish to have your birth photographed or videotaped?
- Are there any comfort objects you would like to have handy such as treasured photographs or a favorite pillow or blanket?
- Do you want to have music playing? Or silence?
- Do you wish to have the lights dimmed?
- Would you like to have access to headphones for music or guided meditation?
Being prepared with ways to make your labor as comfortable and tolerable as possible is an important way to help you achieve your goal of a natural birth. There are many natural techniques that can help alleviate the pain associated with labor that do not include medication or epidurals. Some questions to be sure your natural birth plan addresses are:
- What props would you like to have available for labor? (For example: a birthing ball, a squatting bar or a birthing stool)
- Do you want to be able to labor in water? (For example: in a birthing tub or shower)
- How do you feel about fetal monitoring? Is it important to you that monitoring only be intermittent to allow you to move around more freely?
- What pain management techniques would you like to have available and be supported in using during your labor? (For example: breathing exercises, massage, hypnotherapy, visual imaging, acupressure and guided relaxation) Nitrous oxide is a great alternative to pain medicine for those who wish to utilize it during labor.
- If your goal is a natural birth and you are delivering in a hospital setting, be sure to address your desire to avoid unnecessary interventions. You may also wish to request that you not be offered any pain medicine unless you specifically ask for it.
Pushing and the Birth:
In this section of your birthing plan, you should include information about how you would like to be supported during the second stage of labor and the birth of your baby. Factors to address include:
- Do you want to be told when to push or allow your body to do it instinctively?
- Are there ways that you wish to help prepare your body further for delivery such as perineal massage, hot compresses or oils?
- Do you want to have access to a mirror to see the baby as he is born?
- Do you want to be able to "catch" the baby when she is born?
- Think about the things that are important to you is an emergency necessitates a transfer to a hospital or a C-section.
- If in a hospital setting, how do you feel about the use of instruments such as the vacuum or forceps? How do you feel about the possibility of an episiotomy?
- Do you wish to allow the placenta to be born spontaneously versus with assistance?
Some of your most important wishes for your first moments with baby will likely be included in this section of your natural birthing plan. Questions to consider include:
- Would you like to have immediate skin-to-skin contact with your baby? Skin-to-skin contact during the first moments of life has been found to be one of the most important things you can do for your newborn. Learn more about the importance of the skin-to-skin practice
- Would you like to delay the process of cord clamping to allow time for extra blood flow from the placenta?
- Would you like to delay routine procedures such as eye drops, a bath, and the vitamin K injection to allow you to have time to bond with your baby?
- Are there any routine procedures that you do not wish to have done to your baby?
- Do you wish to save the placenta for encapsulation or other purposes?
- In the event of an emergency C-section, who would you like to have stay with your baby until you are able to hold him? Do you wish for your partner to have immediate skin-to-skin contact?
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when writing your natural birth plan. Be sure to keep your plan direct and concise, so that anyone who is on your birth team can clearly understand your wishes. Print several copies of this document and have them available for doctors, midwives, nurses and family members on the day of your delivery. In addition to having a written birth plan, it is also important to choose health care providers that support and uphold the value of the natural birth process. Statistics show that approximately 85 % of mothers are capable of having a successful, unmedicated birth. The other 15 percent represent those who have high risk pregnancies and other complications.
At the Health Foundations, we strive to encourage, nurture and support you in your desire to bring your baby into the world in the most natural way possible. We are confident that the sense of accomplishment you will feel when holding your wonderfully alert baby in your arms will be well worth your amazing efforts. Contact Health Foundations to learn more about planning your natural birth and to schedule a free consultation with a midwife or a tour of our Birth Center.