A Comprehensive Guide to Creating a Birth Plan

Remember that moment you found out you were pregnant? The overwhelming joy, the rush of emotions, the dawning realization that you’re about to embark on a life-changing adventure. However, childbirth, for all its beauty, remains inherently unpredictable. That initial wave of excitement can quickly turn into pre-delivery anxiety as you contemplate the unknown. That’s where a birth plan comes in, offering a sense of control in the face of the unexpected. So, what is a birth plan, and how can you use it to turn that pre-delivery anxiety into informed anticipation?

The Essence of a Birth Plan

A birth plan is a document that outlines your ideal labor and delivery experience. From pain management and medical interventions to immediate postpartum care and even the ambiance of the delivery room, birth plans communicate your birth wishes to your healthcare team. Think of a birth plan as a collaborative tool between you and your healthcare provider rather than a set of rigid instructions.

So, what is a birth plan intended to achieve? At its core, this written plan provides clarity and direction, reducing uncertainty and stress during one of the most significant events of your life. It empowers you to take an active role in your childbirth by learning about your options and engaging in meaningful discussions with your care team to ensure your voice is heard.

Why a Birth Plan Matters

While you can’t predict exactly how your labor and delivery experience will unfold, here are some reasons to write a birth plan.

A birth plan informs the hospital or birth center of your preferences for pain management, birthing positions, and the involvement of your partner and other support people. This open communication helps your doctor tailor their approach to better support your desires while ensuring you and your baby’s health.

As you explore different birthing options, environments, and newborn procedures, you gain valuable knowledge that empowers you to make informed decisions for yourself and your baby. This makes you more confident and in control during your pregnancy and labor.

Knowing your birth preferences are documented provides a sense of comfort and control during labor. This allows you to focus on bringing your baby into the world, trusting that your healthcare team understands your wishes.

Studies have shown that women with a birth plan tend to be more satisfied with their childbirth experience. According to a past BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth report, birth plans reduced the fear of delivery, relieved depression and PTSD symptoms, and promoted more vaginal births.

Involving your birth partner in the delivery plan helps them understand your wishes and how they can best advocate for your interests during labor. This way, your partner isn’t just a bystander—they’re an active participant in your childbirth experience, asking questions on your behalf, helping with massage techniques, suggesting different positions, and reminding you of your breathing exercises. This shared decision-making strengthens your bond and allows you to navigate the birthing process as a united front.

Your birth plan is an opportunity to express your values regarding family involvement. Do you prioritize immediate skin-to-skin contact with your baby? Would you like your partner to be present for all stages of labor and delivery? The birth plan allows you to communicate these values, promoting a family-centered birthing experience that aligns with your vision.

Remember, unforeseen circumstances may arise during delivery, and your healthcare team may need to deviate from the plan to ensure the safety of you and your baby. A birth plan acknowledges this possibility and expresses your openness to adjustments should a medical emergency arise.

What to Include in Your Birth Plan

While you can’t predict everything, a well-crafted birth plan is all about preparation and open communication with your hospital or birthing center. Here’s what to include in your birth plan ahead of your little one’s arrival:

Before Labor

Start by outlining your preferred delivery method and any pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes that can influence labor decisions. You should also discuss your medical history and mention past pregnancy complications, such as placenta previa, that require special considerations during delivery.

Additionally, specify who you want to be part of your birth team. This can include your partner, family members, a doula, or any other support person. Remember to discuss each support person’s roles beforehand to ensure everyone is comfortable with their responsibilities. You can also note any preferences regarding medical staff, such as requesting a specific doctor or midwife.

Another consideration is your ideal birthing environment. Include preferences for lighting, the music playing, or any other elements that can make you feel more comfortable and relaxed. Similarly, express any desire to move around during labor and ensure they align with delivery safety protocols.

Labor Preferences

Indicate whether you’re aiming for a vaginal birth, C-section, or a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). Additionally, discuss positions you’d like to try during pushing, for example, squatting, kneeling on all fours, side-lying, or using a birthing ball or birthing stool to aid labor progress.

Furthermore, discuss your delivery preferences for pain management, whether they’re medicated options like epidurals or natural approaches like breathing techniques, massages, or a birthing ball.

Medical Interventions

While your baby’s birth is a natural process, interventions might be necessary to ensure the health and safety of both mother and baby. Here are some interventions you can discuss with your healthcare provider for a more informed decision.

This involves artificially starting contractions before labor begins on its own. Reasons for induction can vary, such as a baby going past its due date, concerns about fetal health, or certain maternal medical conditions.

If labor stalls or progresses too slowly, medications like Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin) may be used to strengthen or speed up contractions.

An IV provides fluids and medications directly into the bloodstream. This can be helpful for hydration, especially during long labors, or to deliver certain medications.

This uses electronic sensors to track your baby’s heart rate and contractions. While it can provide reassurance and detect potential problems, EFM may not always be necessary, and continuous monitoring can limit your mobility during labor.

Various pain management options exist, including epidurals (anesthetic injected into the lower back to numb the pain) and nitrous oxide (laughing gas).

This is a surgical incision made in the perineum (the area between the vagina and anus) to enlarge the opening for delivery. While it can help prevent tearing, it’s not always necessary and can increase recovery time.

If your baby is having difficulty descending through the birth canal, instruments like forceps or a vacuum extractor might be used to assist with delivery.

This is a major surgery where the baby is delivered through an incision in the mother’s abdomen. C-sections can become necessary for various reasons, such as fetal distress, complications with the placenta, or if a vaginal birth is not possible.

Delivery and Post-Delivery

Outline your preferences for who is allowed in the delivery room, environmental settings such as lighting and temperature, and immediate post-delivery options like skin-to-skin contact and delayed cord clamping.

Furthermore, discuss your preferences for immediate newborn care, including vitamin K shots, eye ointment, and feeding options (breastfeeding, formula, or a combination). Mention if you'd like to room in with your baby immediately or have them spend time in the nursery.

In Case of the Unexpected

Indicate how you'd like to be involved in decision-making if unexpected situations arise—do you want your partner as your advocate, or would you prefer direct communication with your doctor?

The following unexpected events may occur when giving birth:

  • If a C-section is necessary, discuss whether you'd like your partner or another support person to be present in the operating room
  • If labor doesn't start on its own, discuss your openness to induction and express any concerns you might have about the process.
  • If your pain management plan needs to be adjusted, express your openness to discussing different options with your healthcare team.

Postpartum Care

While your birth plan checklist focuses on labor and birth preferences, postpartum care is equally essential for a smooth recovery. For starters, you can include pain management strategies like medication and massage to cope with soreness and discomfort. You can also address breastfeeding support, including lactation consultant visits and helpful resources for a successful feeding routine.

Another factor is physical recovery exercises to strengthen your core and regain your pre-pregnancy mobility. Furthermore, create a plan to monitor postpartum depression symptoms, including who to reach out to for emotional support and when to seek help.

Your birth plan, with its inclusion of postpartum care, can be a valuable tool to guide you and your healthcare providers from the first few hours to the days and even weeks following childbirth.

Sample Birth Plan

This sample birth plan will inspire and guide you in creating your own personalized plan. Feel free to adapt and modify the birth plan template to reflect your specific wishes and preferences.


  • Your Name: [Insert Your Name]
  • Due Date: [Insert Due Date]
  • Healthcare Provider: [Insert Healthcare Provider's Name]
  • Birth Location: [Insert Birth Location]

Before Labor:

  • Significant Health Factors: [List any significant health factors]
  • Planned Delivery Method: [Vaginal birth/C-section]
  • Birth Team: [List who you want present, e.g., partner, doula, family members]

During Labor:

  • Eating and Drinking Preferences: [Your preferences]
  • Mobility Preferences: [Your preferences for walking, moving around]
  • Labor Environment: [Preferred lighting, music, etc.]
  • Labor Positions: [Preferred positions, use of birthing balls, tubs]

Pain Management:

  • Medicated Pain Relief Options: [Epidural, nitrous oxide, etc.]
  • Non-Medicated Pain Relief Options: [Breathing techniques, massage, etc.]

Medical Interventions:

  • Interventions: [Your stance on artificial rupture of membranes, fetal monitoring, IV use, labor induction, or augmentation]


  • Birthing and Pushing Positions: [Preferred positions]
  • Interventions: [Choices regarding episiotomy, forceps, vacuum extraction]
  • C-Section Preferences: [Consciousness level, immediate contact with the baby]

After Delivery:

  • Immediate Care for You and Baby: [Skin-to-skin contact, instructions on when to cut the umbilical cord, placenta management]
  • Breastfeeding Intentions: [Your intentions]
  • Newborn Care Requests: [Any specific requests]

Newborn Procedures:

  • Medications and Treatments: [Preferences for baby's first medications, treatments]
  • Procedures: [Preferences regarding circumcision, other procedures]

Postpartum Care:

  • Postpartum Recovery Requests: [Any specific requests]

In Case of the Unexpected:

  • Handling Unexpected Events: [Preferences for emergency C-sections, additional medical interventions]

Final Details:

  • Visitor Preferences: [Your preferences for visitors]
  • Special Requests or Considerations: [Any additional requests or considerations]

Final Thoughts

Creating a birth plan is an empowering step in preparing for childbirth. While it's essential to remember that flexibility is key, having a well-thought-out plan can make the experience more positive and controlled. By outlining your preferences and communicating them with your healthcare team, you ensure that your wishes are considered, making childbirth a more personal and fulfilling experience. Remember, unlike some larger hospitals, you will deliver your baby with your OB/GYN at RMC. Need more guidance on creating your birth plan? Contact RMC to welcome your baby on your own terms.