How to Write a Birth Plan

A birth plan is a communication tool that explains how ideally you’d like your birth to go. Having a birth plan wrote out before you head to the hospital is an essential part of the birth process. Whether you’re planning to have an unmedicated or medicated birth, a home birth or a C-sectikon, a birth plan allows you to show and tell your nurses and doctors exactly what you do and do not want to happen during your birth. An effective birth plan will list out your desires and wishes that you’d like to happen before, during and after birth and delivery.

Of course there’s no guarantee that everything on your birth plan will go exactly as planned, but it’s a good idea to have a guideline that you can refer to. If for any reason you are unable to communicate what your wants and needs are, or if you just simply forget them in the moment, a birth plan will be a lifesaver for not only your nurses, doctors or midwife, but for you as well.

Here’s a sample of my birth plan. I kept it very simple and only included the most important facts.

I’m not a doctor, midwife, doula or nurse, but there are a few things I think are important to keep in mind when writing your birth plan. Of course it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure you’ve included everything you need.

Be precise. Don’t be too wordy. Nurses and doctors are busy people. They don’t have all day, even 20 minutes to read a two page birth plan. List the specifics and include only what you need to include. Keep it to the point and list your priorities. Using short sentences and bullet points makes it easy to read and quick to glance at.

Be kind but direct. Instead of saying, ” DO NOT offer me medication,” try saying something like, ” No medication will be used during my birth, please do not offer it to me.” You want to get your point across and you want to sound like you’re serious about it, but you don’t want to be rude.
Give a copy of your birth plan to your doctor beforehand and take one to the hospital with you to give to your nurse. If you are using a doula, she will want a copy as well.
A Few Things to Include on Your Birth Plan
  • Do you want medication? List what kinds of pain relief you do/don’t want.
  • Who will cut the baby’s cord?
  • Do you want specific music played?
  • Who will wash the baby?
  • Who do you want in the room with your during labor and following birth?
  • What kinds of monitoring of the baby you wish to have during labor?
  • Do you want an epistosomy?
  • Will you be breastfeeding after birth?
  • Who do you want with you during labor?
  • Do you want to keep your placenta?
  • In case of an emergency- who is in charge?
  • Do you want a mirror? Do you want a fan?
  • Any special request?
  • Do you want your boy circumcised?
You can find an interactive birth plan here that is an excellent guideline. This would even be a great form to print out and use.

I’m so glad I made a birth plan for myself. It helped me to feel more relaxed knowing all my wishes were done on paper. I was lucky to have an awesome nurse. I handed her my birth plan when I first arrived to the hospital and she glanced it over. Right away, she knew I didn’t want an IV so she didn’t even have to ask. She knew I didn’t want drugs- so she never asked. She knew I didn’t want visitors in the room during labor- so when they came she asked them to leave. All of the she knew because of my birth plan. She never had to ask nor was she unsure about anything because everything was done on paper. When you’re in labor, the last thing you want to do is talk to your nurse/doctor/doula about your preferences and wishes for birth. Especially when you’re in hard labor and when you can’t comprehend even the smallest things.

Did you have a birth plan? Do you feel it was helpful for your birth?

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

13 thoughts on “How to Write a Birth Plan

  1. Great post!! We made a birth plan but then forgot to bring it. A lot of things went on that I was not pleased with so for baby #2 we'll definitely make our wishes known LOUD AND CLEAR. You have to – otherwise those nurses will give your baby formula and they'll IV you with all sorts of shit.

  2. I had one. The nurses were so impressed with it, they asked if I was a nurse. It didn't help at all. They aren't legally binding. I still wound up with an unnecessary cesarean. They still took my glasses away even though I said in my plan I wanted to keep them. Did get them back after crying to a different nurse, but if birth plans had any effect, it wouldn't have happened.

    The only language that has any kind of legal force, & even then they could just claim they didn't read it/hear it is “I do not consent.” The other way to legally protect yourself (somewhat) is to READ THE FORMS. Cross off anything you don't agree to. Refuse to sign the general consent form that they all have which basically gives them the right to do anything they want to you, so long as they claim “medical necessity” Those forms have been used to perform forced cesareans on women. Even ones screaming “I do not consent”.

  3. I think birth plans are a great way for you to figure out what you truly want. Even tho they aren't binding, I think they still help.

    The best way to make them happen is to discuss them with your care giver so you are on the same page, and also have people there with you that make it happen. Someone that can be a midway person between you and the staff.

    Education is key and I think the birth plan just makes your wishes known to you and your family, and your practitioner if they understand them.

  4. I'm so glad we had a birth plan. We informed our midwives ahead of time of it and they actually asked to have a copy on hand in case I went into labor unexpectedly. On the night we arrived at the hospital for me to be induced (at 42 weeks!) the nurses at the front desk knew my name and said,”Yes, we've already read your birh plan.” My midwives had given them a copy! We were impressed.
    Almost every nurse I had was familiar with my birthplan to the point of almost memorizing it (it was one page) and they were very respectful of it.

    One thing I had on the birthplan was “Absolutely no vaccines are to be administered to baby without parents' consent.” And we were still asked 3 different times if we wanted her to get the Hep B shot (which is so unnecessary.) That was the only thing that ticked me off but for the most part the birthplan was well received.

    Thanks for posting about this. People need to know that they have a say!

  5. great post. I truly hope my next (3rd) pregnancy will have a birth plan…. you see, with my first child, I had read alot of things about writing up a birth plan. while pregnant, i researched and thought about trying to go natural and several other things during the labor and delivery process.

    So, when i asked my ob/gyn about writing up birth plan, i said, “so, how do i go about getting a birth plan set up?” and she said, “this is it. let's talk about it.” so, sure we talked a few things over, but i felt like if i had something written, then maybe i would've felt a little more compelled to stick to it. and if the nurses that were taking care of me saw it, maybe they would've helped me thru the process a bit more.

    i LOVED my doc, don't get me wrong, and i think she did a great job and did what SHE thought was right. but she did push an epidural. she did say she didn't do water births, etc. but i felt like maybe if i had a birth plan, I would've tried to stick to the things i believed in most.

    i really hope by the time i get preggo next that i will have done more research and can have a short, but detailed birth plan written so docs and nurses can guide me thru.

    thanks for posting this!!

  6. I said that I'd save my birth plan so that I could laugh at it later. My situation was different. I planned a home birth with a midwife who I loved and trusted and who I needed NOTHING in writing for. We ended up transfering to the hospital after 36 hours of labor (with broken bag of waters and meconium) at only 5 cm. Ugh. I brought my “in case of transfer” birth plan, but really just about every single thing I'd hoped to avoid happened to me. I did narrowly escape a c-section and then an episiotomy (I only knew what was happening because the doctor poked me there and asked, “Can you feel this?” I said, “Yes–oh, DON'T CUT ME.” Or something to that effect.). I went through just about everything in the next six hours of my labor. Thankfully, once my baby was born (except for immediately cutting the cord and wisking her off to a table to examine meconium situation), my wishes were once again respected. For my next baby, I will still write a birth plan, I will plan another homebirth, but I will have a lot more humility in knowing that the best laid plans do not garuntee results. God is ultimately in control. Oh, and my loving supportive husband and my midwife (acting as a doula at that point) were wonderful at running interference and helping to communicate my wishes (and my necessity for letting go of them) and did more than any piece of paper could have.

  7. Great post, Samantha! I would also say to present this birth plan to the doctors well before your estimated due date. You can feel them out and find out whether they agree or disagree with your plan (and then make plans to switch care providers). CIMS and The Birth Survey just came out with a study stating that the NUMBER ONE indicator of your birth outcome is your doctor/hospital. So, if your hospital has a 70% c-section rate, no matter your health, education, insurance, birth plan, etc YOU also have a 70% chance of getting a c-section. It is super important to know that in advance. If you ask and your provider won't tell you (or says they don't know) their rates, that is a red flag. Go to http://www.thebirthsurvey.com and find out what other women are saying about those providers. Make informed decisions about your care. You deserve to have the birth experience that you want! 🙂 Then help out other women in your area by filling out The Birth Survey.

  8. I'd only heard of birth plans (that are given to birthing helpers rather than just the dad – “Don't be mad if I swear at you,” – after my my baby. I honestly planned to write up a plan because of the sense of control I'd read it would give me, but my second baby was a preemie and was born so fast there just wasn't time to think about what to do or how I wanted it to go!

    Still, this birth plan is an important idea for to-be moms who really want their doulas, midwives, and/or doctors to understand exactly who it is that's havign the baby. 🙂 Thanks.

  9. Thankyou for posting this. I found it very helpful since I am getting ready to write my birth plan. I had my last child at home so this will be my first natural birth in the hospital. I had the epidural with my first 2.

  10. I had a birth plan and went over it with my midwife 6-8 weeks before I was due. She discussed it with me which was so helpful to make sure we were both on the same page, so to speak. Then she sent a copy to the hospital. When I went into labor, I brought a copy along and my midwife looked at it again. Immediately, she molded everything she did or didn't do to fit my plan!

    I know some people have bad luck with birth plans. Either things don't go according to “plan” and the mama feels like she failed or a doctor/nurse gets defensive about it and tries to be disagreeable… In my case, though, my birth plan was great to have!

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