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Create a Better Birth Plan: How to Write One and What It Can and Cannot Do For You

Updated on May 9, 2010

A birth plan is a written record of your preferences for childbirth. It serves as a notice to healthcare professionals who may not be personally acquainted with you and your family. You can include everything from medication desires to who will attend you during labor. Birth plans can help healthcare providers understand your wishes. In addition, the act of writing down a plan can be a useful exercise for considering the many situations that arise during childbirth.

Some typical things to include in a birth plan are:

  • names of care providers and other people who will assist the birthing mother
  • timing of departure to hospital or birth center, laboring techniques
  • preferences in regard to certain tests, exams, and medications

You can make your birth plan as detailed or as simple as you want. If you are using the birth plan as a detailed memento of your experience, you may want to write a second version that is more concise for the health care staff.

There are a lot of choices, but no need to be overwhelmed. The Interactive Birth Plan is just one of many sites that allow you to fill in the blanks and end up with a birth plan. This questionnaire will guide you through the common choices expectant parents can make. If creating a birth plan seems intimidating, this is a good resource. You can always add more preferences.

You Can't Really Plan Your Child's Birth

It's important to remember that while you can plan for your child's birth, you don't really control it. Professional childbirth educator and doula, Kim Palena James cautions:

"Too many parents create birth plans with the expectation that it will be the actual script of their baby's birth. There is no way! Nature scripts how your child is born into this world: short, long, hard, easy, early, late, etc... The health care providers you choose, and the facility they practice in, will script how you and your labor are treated. The variations are vast. I wish every expectant parent spent less time writing birth plans and more time selectively choosing health care providers that align with their philosophy on health care, match their health status and their needs for bedside manner."

Ms. James advises expectant parents on what birth plans can and cannot accomplish:

A Birth Plan Cannot:

1. Change your health care provider's style of practice, personality or protocols. It will be unlikely that you'll receive options and choices that aren't already a regular part of your health care provider's practices.

What you can do: Start taking hospital tours and asking questions the minute after you see the second line on your positive pregnancy test! Instead of "marrying" a care provider within the first trimester, spend that time shopping around for the best care provider and birthplace for you!

2. Script the nature of your labor. Just like a poker game, you cannot choose your hand; you simply get to play the hand you're dealt.

What you can do: Think about all the different ways labor could unfold and how you might react if labor was faster or slower than expected; harder or easier than expected. What would you need for comfort, support and information in each of these variations?

3. Insure you have a satisfying labor.

What you can do: Ask a lot of questions before and during childbirth. Ask for time to make your thoughtful decisions. We know from good qualitative studies that women who actively participated in their pregnancies and labors reported being most satisfied with their experiences regardless of the nature of their labors!

A birth plan is most useful when you use it to:

1. Discuss options and choices with your health care provider. Understanding how your care provider thinks and what her normal practices are will help eliminate confusion, debate, and disappointment during labor and birth. You'll also increase the level of trust between yourself and your care provider: She'll understand your priorities and you'll understand her limitations and preferences.

2. Communicate your personality and unique physical, emotional, and environmental needs to your labor and delivery nurse. Let her know what works best for you: A quiet environment? Whispered voices? Do you have a fear of needles? Are you worried about too many people in your room? What do you want to do for pain relief? What helps you relax? What does your partner need? What are his or her fears? Do you like to be touched? What did you learn in your childbirth classes that you'd like to try?

Examples of great birth plans:

Information in this article provided in part by childbirth educator and professional doula, Kim Palena James. You can find out more about childbirth and pregnancy from Kim's perspective in the following articles:

Best Pregnancy Books

Create a Better Birthplan: How to Write One and What it Can and Cannot Do For You

Health Care Provider Options for Childbirth: Obstetricians, Family Practitioners, and Midwives

For more information, browse the articles in the Truth About Pregnancy and Childbirth


Submit a Comment
  • profile image

    dee sheridan  

    9 years ago

    very informative article. that is why I like to call them "birth wishes"

  • Mama Sez profile image

    Mama Sez 

    10 years ago from Canada

    Hi Lela,

    Very informative! This one really complements my recent hub entitled Childbirth Preparation Tips.

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    Very informative!

  • skydiver profile image


    10 years ago from UK

    Thats a very nice hub, a Birth Plan is very important but is often dismissed by many mothers to be, especially by young mums in the UK. I have a hub related to my fiances (21 at the time) Birth Story which you may find interesting, everything ran very smoothly, partly due to her excellent birth plan which was drawn up with help from the NCT in the UK.


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