Here are the steps I teach for how to develop a birth plan. I do a brief walk-through of a birth planning process. For each, describe how to do the step, who participates, and the primary goal.
- Birth Plan Checklist – Pregnant Parent and Partner
- Find a checklist such as http://www.pcnguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/2-Preparing-Your-Birth-Plan.pdf. The pregnant parent and the primary support person walk through this together, making sure they understand what each of the options are (and if not, learning more), and making sure the support person knows her preferences for each. There is no need to share this detailed checklist with their care providers, it’s just for their own reference – it’s worth tucking it in the bag they’ll take to the hospital in case they would like to refer back to it in labor.
- Top 3 – 5 Priorities – Discuss with Care Provider.
- While completing the checklist, they can determine what their top priorities are. They should discuss these with their care provider at a prenatal appointment. Will these choices be options for them during their birth process? What can they do to increase the likelihood of reaching those goals? This discussion allows them to develop realistic expectations and increase the chance the expectations will be met. (Note, sometimes this can lead a parent to re-examine whether the caregiver and birthplace choices they have made are the best fit for their goals.)
- Written Birth Plan – To Share with Nurses at the Hospital
- A birth plan is the primary tool for communicating with nurses about the family’s goals and priorities, and what kind of support from caregivers would be most helpful to them.
- It should never be more than one page long (in a easily readable format.)
- One format is to have three sections. The first describes who they are as a family and who will be at the birth and what they have done to prepare for this birth. The second gives the big picture of their preferences for labor support, pain medication, and interventions. The third is optional, and explains any special information that “if the nurse only knew this about me, they could better support me.” This is a good place to address religious or cultural preferences, history of sexual abuse or other personal history that may affect them during the birth process, any particular worries they have about the birth.
- If parents are planning a home birth, they may not need a written birth plan for their midwife if they’ve been in deep discussion for the whole pregnancy. However, they absolutely should have a written birth plan in case of transfer. In a survey of birth satisfaction, some of the lowest rates were for people who had planned an out-of-hospital birth and transferred. They could increase the chance of a satisfying birth experience by taking time to articulate their wishes.
- Sample birth plans are available at http://www.pcnguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/2-Preparing-Your-Birth-Plan.pdf. Feel free to print several examples to share in class to show there’s no one right way to write a birth plan.
Childbirth Educators can support students with figuring out their top 3 – 5 priorities using the Birth Plan Card Sort exercise: https://transitiontoparenthood.files.wordpress.com/2018/10/birth-plan-card-sort.pdf. Instructions are on the last page.