Your Birth Plan: Tips for Writing & a Free Printable

Newborn baby still attached to placenta. Captured by Bellingham birth photographer Renee Bergeron.
Black and white maternity photo with toddler and family dog.

Why Have a Birth Plan?

Believe it or not, my husband and I never created a birth plan for any of our nine babies! When I gave birth to my first in 1996, birth plans weren’t really a “thing” yet. We had many discussions with our midwife and that was that. Even though we moved several times (I’ve had babies in Alaska, Canada, and Washington) we always had midwifery care and were able to just express our desires to our provider. Now birth plans are much more common and a great idea for getting on the same page as a couple and with your provider.

Doulas of Bellingham offer private and group childbirth education classes.

Tips for Creating a Birth Plan that Works for You

Keep it Simple

We all know that doctors and midwives (not to mention nurses on duty) don’t have time to read novellas about your dream birth. Try to keep your birth plan to one page, preferably with bullet points so they can read it quickly and refer to it during labor if necessary.

A beautiful maternity session in the woods by Bellingham maternity photographer, Renee Bergeron of Little Earthling Photography.

Things to research when creating a birth plan

One of my favorite parts of preparing for the birth of my first baby was the childbirth classes my husband and I took together.

Newborn baby still attached to placenta. Captured by Bellingham birth photographer Renee Bergeron.

Delayed Cord Clamping

Is this important to you? Most midwives do this as a matter of course (there is usually no reason to clamp the cord right away), but if you have an OB as your provider, this is something you may want to bring up ahead of time. You can read about delayed cord clamping here.

Mom cuts baby's umbilical cord after giving birth.
Mom cutting the umbilical cord after birth

This is also a great time to discuss ahead of time who you would like to cut the cord. My husband cut the cord for all of our babies and I had the privilege of cutting the cord when my grandson, Montgomery, was born.

Cord Blood Banking

Cord Blood Banking is a newer option that some families are choosing. You need to have a discussion about this with your provider ahead of time I have photographed several births where the families chose cord blood banking and were told they could not also have delayed cord clamping. I don’t know the science behind not being able to do both, but from what I’ve observed at our local hospital, doing both is not an option.

Mom on hands and knees during labor at hospital. Bellingham birth photography.

Who Will your Support Team Be?

Will it be just you and your partner? Will you have friends or other family members present? Will you be using a doula? Is photography or videography allowed?

Midwife examining newborn just after birth. Bellingham birth photography.l

Newborn Screening

Education yourself about screening and vaccines that are required in your state. Some parents choose to go with all the recommended screening and vaccines, others choose to delay or skip some.

Baby’s First Test allows you to research by state. If you live in Washington you can see the recommended vaccines here.

St Joseph’s Hospital here in Bellingham says, “We are required by state law to administer Erythromycin eye ointment in your baby’s eyes within an hour of birth and to administer a Vitamin K shot to promote proper blood clotting. All medications are “baby-friendly” and will not impede breastfeeding.”

Laboring mom uses nitrous oxide for pain relief. Bellingham birth photographer.

Pain Relief Options

This will vary from hospital to hospital. Most hospitals offer epidurals and/or spinal anesthesia. Hospitals usually offer some type of IV pain relief that can “take the edge” off labor.

Some hospitals offer nitrous oxide (laughing gas) during labor. Our local hospital does not but Bellingham Birth Center and Mt. Vernon Birth Center both offer this as an option.

Toddler supports moms during homebirth.  Bellingham birth photographer.

Other Options During Labor

Here are some things to consider ahead of time and bring up with your provider.

Will you be able to be up and walk around?

Continuous or intermittent fetal monitoring?

Mom laboring in tub during birth in Bellingham.

Is there a birth tub? Is water birth an option?

Can mom choose her labor position?

Newbor baby curled up with mom in hospital. Bellingham birth photographer.

Length of Stay

Find out what the normal length of stay after giving birth is. Some moms like to stay as long as possible after birth and others like to get home where they rest better.

Mom laboring in tub during hospital birth in Bellingham, WA.

Prioritize

I recommend you and your partner prioritize which parts of labor/birth/recovery are most important to you. No one can predict how labor will begin, how long it will last, or how the delivery will go. Prioritizing these ahead of time can help you make better decisions during your birth.

Newborn baby with headful of hair smling. Bellingham newborn photographer.

Be Flexible and Remember the End Goal

Remember, the end goal is always a healthy mama and a healthy baby.

You can download my free Birth Plan Guide and Birth Plan Worksheet or click here to download my nine-page Birth Resource Packet.

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