Unsure of what to include in your birth plan template? We give you the tips and guidelines to get you set up for delivery success.
Some women have very clear ideas about their delivery day.
Others only begin to formulate a plan as their pregnancy nears the very last week.
Either way, a birth plan template can be useful for working out what to expect when the big day comes, helping you feel more prepared for labor and the delivery experience.
But what exactly is a birthing plan?
We like to call it birth preferences.
Basically, it’s a record of your wishes for your experience before, during, and after labor and delivery.
It’s where you’ll draw up a picture of your best-case scenario, armed with what’s practical, feasible, and possible at your hospital of choice.
There’s a lot to consider when deciding your birth preferences, and much can change in the meantime.
How about we start with some fail-safe do’s and don’ts.
In this article: 📝
- Do I have to write a birth plan?
- Are birth plans worth it?
- What should I write in my birth plan?
- How do I write a good birth plan?
- Why do birth plans fail?
- How long should a birth plan be?
- When should you start a birth plan?
- What happens at a birth plan appointment?
- Do’s and don’ts of writing a birth plan
- Tips for writing a birth plan template
Do I have to write a birth plan?
Not if you don’t want to mama.
The end goal of writing one is to gain a better birth experience.
Making a point of discussing what this looks like to you with a medical professional is a great chance to ask questions and find out more about what you can expect ahead of time.
You can do that without a formal birth plan!
However, they do have their merits when self-advocating.
Plus they can provide helpful guidance to your support team when emotions are running high – because they will.
Are birth plans worth it?
The beauty of having one is that it can help you work out what’s realistic and eliminate conflict.
Most importantly, it helps everyone understand your feelings and priorities — which is always worth it.
If you go into labor with an on-call doctor, your birth plan can communicate all your wishes effectively to the delivery team when you physically cannot.
But they’re not contracts.
Like any milestone and life stage, they are not set in stone.
And while there’s every chance your plan can be carried out exactly the way you drew it up, like pregnancy, childbirth is unpredictable.
Sometimes birth plans have to change for the wellbeing of you and your baby.
Other times you may change your mind later in your journey (yes, you can do that).
All of these are valid reasons, mama.
In this sense every birth plan could be considered a template.
What should I write in my birth plan?
A great place to start is a birth plan checklist.
There is no right or wrong way to approach this: some mamas like to keep things simple, while others find comfort in going into detail.
But making sure you cover these major areas is a great place to start:
- Requests before birth
- Labor and delivery
- Vaginal vs. C-section
- Steps for unexpected events
- Newborn care upon delivery
Some easy birth plan examples come in the form of a print-out or one-page template.
You can get started with our sample birth plan below:
How do I write a good birth plan?
A birth plan covers many variables, and while comforting, it can also be intimidating to start.
We get it.
One of the best ways to approach it is as an opportunity to invite open communication with your support team.
To help you, we’ve created a birth plan checklist for each stage of baby’s debut:
Requests before birth
What would make you feel safe, relaxed, and comfortable?
Working out what you’d like — and what is manageable — can help you feel more settled.
Here are some examples to think about:
- Who you’d like to have with you during labor and/or delivery
- What and if you would like to eat and drink during labor
- If you’d prefer a water birth
- If you’d like photos or videos
- What atmosphere you’d like: music, lighting, comforts from home
- What equipment you’d like: birthing tub, in-room shower, exercise ball — you may want to check what your facility can accommodate
- Being out of bed during labor
- Specific birthing positions you’d prefer
Requests during labor and delivery
Once you’ve outlined your ideal birth setup, it helps to think about what comes next.
This means considering how you’ll manage labor pain and what procedures you’d prefer.
Here are some subjects you may want to address:
- Will you want an epidural or pain medication?
- Will you want alternatives to pain meds?
- Using external and/or internal electronic fetal monitors
- Using an IV or catheter
- Using oxytocin to induce your contractions
- Relying on hypnobirthing
- Using interventions such as vacuum extraction or forceps to help your baby along
- Artificial rupture of the membrane or leaving it intact
- Your medical professional’s view on episiotomies vs. natural tearing
Vaginal vs. C-section
You probably have an idea already as to whether you’d prefer a vaginal or c-section delivery.
However, sometimes unexpected events mean this can change.
If you are high risk or experience a medical emergency, a medical induction or c-section might be the safest route for you and your baby.
Creating a birth plan can help everyone know how to best fulfill your needs.
Usually, these needs are your preferences but thinking about the other options and what you’d like in these instances can be a very helpful plan B.
Requests for newborn care
The first moments after your baby’s birth are exciting and incredibly meaningful, but chances are, you’re going to be feeling pretty pooped by then!
So, thinking about this is helpful to do beforehand.
Your considerations can include:
- Having your partner catch the baby or cut the umbilical cord
- When to cut the cord
- Cord blood banking
- Special requests around suctioning the baby
- Special requests around weighing the baby
- Special requests around the placenta
- Holding the baby immediately after birth
- Plans for breastfeeding, or having a lactation consultant to help
If all that feels like a lot to consider, that’s okay.
Many expectant mamas feel overwhelmed by all the decisions ahead of them, but there are many resources out there to help.
If you’re comforted by doing your own research first, then go for it!
Remember, there’s no shame in sharing a first draft with your obstetrician and altering your birth plan the more informed you become.
Why do birth plans fail?
Birth plans are guidelines and, by their nature, sometimes fail.
This can often leave moms feeling disappointed by their birthing experience, or worse, that they have failed.
No, we don’t like this energy either, which is why we’ve gathered the top reasons so you can make those birth preferences a sure thing.
1. Not collaborating with your birth practitioner
Lack of communication is the number one reason a birth plan fails.
Whether it’s not enlisting their expertise or giving them adequate time to review it, not including your midwife or obstetrician in your birth planning is a no-no.
A birth plan is a process and one that requires all hands on deck to ensure expectations are clear and can be met.
2. Not sharing your birth plan
A recent study showed that those mothers who shared their birth plan with trained professionals tended to have a better experience.
You may not feel comfortable sharing your preferences if not asked, but everyone will benefit if you do.
You’ll never regret speaking up.
And that goes for every aspect of your life BTW.
3. Lack of information or too much
The only thing worse than having a short, uninformed birth plan is one packed to the max with pages of information.
It’s tempting to want to include everything you’ve researched, but this may harm you more than help you.
The danger of having to sift through tonnes of info is that your most desired preferences tend to get lost.
Keep it concise and your voice will shine through.
4. No flexibility
Of course, you have a vision in mind for your labor and newborn aftercare.
And yes, you deserve that vision to come true.
But twists and turns can happen.
As much as everyone wants your plan to succeed, it helps to allow for some flexibility to avoid any dampening of your experience.
Hey, no one likes a change of plan but all the more reason to prepare for deviations.
Birth plans can fail for many reasons.
The good news is some of these are highly preventable (and within your control).
How long should a birth plan be?
As a rule of thumb, you want your birth plan to be easy to read — all the better to make sure your requests are heard.
It should be concise and as clear as possible.
Think about 1-2 pages long with plenty of bullet points for easy readability.
As for tone and language, be assertive but polite.
When should you start a birth plan?
There is no strict timeline for a birth plan — although it’s not something you want to be writing the day of.
Shortly after you finish your antenatal classes is a great time to start.
For other mamas, a good place to start is with their obstetrician a few weeks before their due date.
They’ll be perfectly placed to answer your questions and give you confidence in making your choices.
They may even provide a template for you to fill in.
What happens at a birth plan appointment?
A birth plan appointment is a chance to share preferences and ask for guidance in person, safe in the hands of someone keen to give you peace of mind.
It’s also an opportunity for your healthcare provider to get to know you a bit better so they can understand the wishes you have.
All of which is a win-win for you!
Think of this meeting as a dialogue where any expectations can be talked through, advice shared, and options explored.
You may be given a birth plan template before or during your appointment, but there is nothing stopping you from writing your own if it makes you more comfortable.
If you’re not the most assertive person, just remember that a birth plan is all about helping your caregivers and medical team give you the support you need during labor and delivery.
There is no wrong question or silly request if it’s a big concern to you.
What’s most important is you walk away from your appointment with all the information and resources you need to make informed decisions.
Do’s and don’ts of writing a birth plan
Writing a birth plan that reads easy and honors your wishes is one everyone can get on board with – and will want to.
Here are some do’s and don’ts that will keep confusion at bay and your birthing experience positive:
- Do show you’re fully informed about choices, especially around pain management
- Don’t pack your birth plan with pages of research
- Do include names and numbers of all important caregivers
- Don’t write paragraphs for each person on your support team
- Do take inspiration from editable birth plan templates
- Don’t rely on birth plan checklists alone
- Do add a concise section of your medical and obstetric history
- Don’t be rigid — be prepared that things can change in an instant
- Do share with your support team and healthcare provider
- Don’t share last-minute
Tips for writing a birth plan template
If a birthing plan feels right for you, a useful tip is to make several copies.
This way, you or your loved ones can share them easily with the people around you who can facilitate your decisions.
And, of course, you can always ask other mamas on Peanut about their preferences and experiences, too.
Birth plans are a fairly new trend and by no means necessary.
However, it’s easy to see why they’re gaining in popularity: they’ll help you feel more prepared.
And for many, preparation builds confidence.
It’s good to remember, however, that sometimes, things don’t go to plan — and that’s okay, too!
The most important thing is everyone is safe and happy.