Hey pregnant mama! You’re here because you’re looking for a customizable, free birth plan template, right?
Keep reading. I’ve got you covered.
But first, let’s go through exactly what your options are and what each of them actually mean otherwise no template will provide any value to you at all.
My friend, Chelsey of Both Hands Doula, provided all this information on why these options are so important, with a research-backed explanation of each choice.
After all, you are giving informed consent for EVERYTHING that occurs during your baby’s delivery.
Because every intervention has potential benefits and risks, it’s best if you understand those decisions beforehand.
Just one quick note: This post may contain affiliate links.
Do you really need a birth plan?
It’s so important to go with the flow and be flexible to make sure you and baby stay safe and healthy throughout labor and delivery.
So while some call this a birth plan template or a birth plan checklist, it really should be considered a birth wish list.
And no, you don’t need one.
Actually, my son came so quickly we didn’t even have a chance to pull the darn piece of paper out. HA!
But 99% of the point of this is to understand your options ahead of time, so you feel empowered to make decisions confidently on the fly as needed.
Having the power to do so is also a great way to avoid finding yourself in a traumatic birth situation where you feel powerless or filled with regret afterward about the way things went.
So yes, I strongly encourage you to sit down, do a little research, and consider these options.
Don’t forget to inform your significant other (and birth doula if you have one!) of your preferences so they can help support you throughout the process.
Even if you end up like me with a lightning-fast delivery.
Here’s what you’ll find in this free birth plan template.
Now let’s talk about your options for labor and delivery.
During labor you can ask for:
- Dimmed lights
- Soft music playing
- As few vaginal exams as possible: They’re invasive. If you’re induced they can be painful, aggravating, or uncomfortable. These can also be triggering for some women.
- To wear your own comfy clothes (like a special robe from this mama-favorite brand!)
- To eat or drink as needed: Childbirth is often a marathon, which requires energy. Tell your birth staff “I’m making an informed decision on how I want to labor and I need to recharge right now.”
Note: Some hospitals will say this is “not allowed,” due to the risk of aspiration if you were to vomit while being operated on while flat on your back during a c-section.
- To move around as needed: Gravity is a hugely helpful tool in progressing labor and moving baby down the birth canal.
Remember! With every intervention there is a tradeoff and with an epidural, you may not be able to move your legs.
- Conversation limited: So you can relax and focus
Options for pain relief during labor:
- Whatever is suggested by the birth staff
- Breathing techniques
- Guided meditation: Your doula or birth support person can take you somewhere else and remind you every contraction is bringing your baby closer to your arms.
- Water therapy: Birthing in a tub is a more relaxing, weightless experience. But you can also simply use a shower head in the hospital to spray your lower back with warm water.
- Hot or cold therapy: Cool off with a cold pack on the back of your neck. Or try heat on your lower back if you have a back labor. Your doula or birth partner can bring these items.
- Epidural: A common, effective pain relief option. However, you can’t do a water birth with an epidural, because it’s unpredictable how much you can move your legs afterward.
- Morphine or Fentanyl: Both can be very effective for pain relief and relaxation. They do cross the placental barrier.
Again, it’s a great idea to do more research about these options so you understand the benefits and potential risks. Don’t wait until you’re in labor to understand these.
You can also ask hospital staff what they would recommend in the moment if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
RELATED READING: 6 Powerful Birth Affirmations
RELATED READING: What Is A Postpartum Doula And Are They Worth It?
RELATED READING: How to Make a DIY Postpartum Care Kit
Options for labor augmentation/inducing labor:
Many providers will give you the option to induce at 41 weeks pregnant. But it is your decision whether to wait or not, unless there is a medical consideration.
- Membrane sweep: Your provider runs fingers your between bag of waters and and womb to separate the membranes and get contractions going. This could accidentally break your water and may be uncomfortable.
- Cervidil: A small implement is inserted into your vagina with cervical ripening gel on it. It’s left in for 24 hours and can get contractions going. Sometimes you need more than one.
Note: The consideration here is that baby may not tolerate it and go into fetal distress or cause an abnormal fetal heart rate. For these reasons, you may need to be kept for monitoring.
- Foley catheter insertion: This is a tube with a balloon that puts pressure on your cervix to gently encourage dilation. Once you hit 3-4 cm, it falls out. This can be uncomfortable.
- Artificial membrane rupture: A quick process using a sterile tool to break your water. It may be uncomfortable.
- Pitocin: A serious intervention and the last option. It’s synthetic oxytocin through an IV, which causes intense contractions and may put stress on baby. It can be adjusted if needed.
Something to consider: Getting an epidural can slow down labor and can begin a cascade of interventions.
That means, it often leads to needing to augment labour with Pitocin which would end in a c-section if baby cannot tolerate it.
Also, for any of these listed where a foreign object is entering your vagina, there is always a low risk of infection.
Your options during delivery:
Remember what I said about gravity helping aid with childbirth?
We’re so conditioned to think we have to labor on our back with out legs up, but that’s because it’s what’s easiest for the birthing staff. Not necessarily for you.
Who’s giving birth here anyway?!
- Following any methods recommended
- Being on your back
- Being on your hands and knees
- Lying on your side
- Push spontaneously: This way you purely listen to your own body with an acknowledgement that your body knows how to get the baby out
- Push as directed: You will need to do this if you have an epidural
- Ask to touch baby’s head as it crowns
- Use a mirror to see baby crown: This can be a great pushing tool so you can see the progress of a contraction. Seeing the effect you’re having is really motivating
- Avoid forceps/vacuum: These tools should always be used as a last resort to pull baby out only in an emergency. It can be very traumatic physically and emotionally to you and baby, especially if you don’t know what they are ahead of time
Note: Using forceps to assist delivery increases the likelihood of an episiotomy (when they cut your perineum–the area between vagina and anus). This can scratch baby’s head and face. And you will probably need pelvic floor PT afterward.
- Get an episiotomy as needed or only as a last resort: This allows your practitioner to control the size and depth versus a tear. However, it’s typically more difficult to heal and you always need to give informed consent
- Be allowed to tear naturally: Sometimes this is better than an episiotomy because healing may be easier, but sometimes it’s better to get an episiotomy if the tear would be too severe and difficult to heal.
Note: Deciding between an episiotomy or natural tearing is a situational decision where the pros and cons need to be weighed.
- Ask that you or your partner catch baby: This is for the experience
Options for fetal monitoring:
These options weigh the severity of the situation being monitored with your want and need to use movement to help progress labor.
- Continuously: Very limiting for movement and you can’t be in water. But may be necessary or preferred if baby is in distress or if you’re feeling anxious and want to keep an eye
- Intermittently: On a schedule. For example: every four hours for an hour
- By doppler only: Periodically with handheld device
- Only if baby is in distress
And following delivery there are more choices, no matter how you delivered:
- Baby to receive medical treatment as recommended
- Your partner to cut the umbilical cord
- Delay cord clamping until it stops pulsating: 1/3 of baby’s blood supply remains in placenta and cord after birth. Waiting until the cord turns white and stops pulsing ensures it gets back into baby
- Banking the cord blood: To get stem cells for baby or future children, for cancer, blood diseases like leukemia, etc.
- To deliver your placenta without assistance: Standard practice gives a injection to prompt placenta to detach
- To keep your placenta: Some women enjoy ceremonial or health-related practices with this
- Delay treatments until after skin-to-skin: It’s recommended that baby is naked on mama’s naked chest for one hour following birth. This helps with bonding and breastfeeding, and delivering your placenta
- Baby to receive prophylactic eye ointment: Protects baby while passing through birth canal if you have a sexually transmitted infection. Although standard in hospitals, it’s not actually necessary unless you have an STI
- Baby to receive vitamin K: Strongly encouraged that you approve this to help baby’s blood clot
- Baby’s gender not announced
Do I need a birth plan for c-section?
If a cesarean section is planned, you may feel less in control of the circumstances of your labor.
The same may be even more true with an unplanned c-section.
But you do still have options!
You can ask for:
- A second opinion: Unless this is an emergency situation, you have the right to make sure you’ve explored other options first.
Note: It is known that some OBs are very c-section oriented for timing and efficiency reasons. Again, who is giving birth here?
- Your partner to stay with you the whole time
- A clear drape (if available)
- Your arms left free: You may have arm restrained with an IV or blood pressure cuff. Arms free helps ensure you can do skin-to-skin afterward and helps if you’re claustrophobic
- The procedure explained to you as it happens
- The drape lowered so see baby born
- To begin breastfeeding in the recovery room
Ready for that free birth plan template I promised you?
Having a baby?
Make sure you’re prepared for childbirth and to meet your own needs during the postpartum period with my handy, printable Essential 3rd & 4th Trimester Guide!
It’s so important to understand not only the options and benefits of your choices and interventions, but also the potential risks.
By arming yourself with this information, you are setting yourself up for an empowered labor and delivery and will also reduce the chances of experiencing a traumatic birth situation.
Remember: this is your birth, mama! The choices are ALL YOURS.
What else would you add to this free birth plan template? Tell me in the comments below.
Here for you,
P.S. You can learn more about childbirth, the benefits of a hiring a birth or postpartum doula, and get virtual or in-person support from Chelsey of Both Hands Doula.