By Stefanie Antunes

New moms love to talk about their labor and delivery…and, of course, their babies. These anecdotes can be both helpful and harmful. Many pregnant women become panicked after hearing all the gory details of other women’s birthing experiences. The truth is, most people focus on the negative because it makes for better storytelling. There are many beautiful and empowering birth stories. How does an expectant mom siphon through all the stories and advice, and how can women plan for their own positive birth experience? In short, by creating a birth plan.

Making a birth plan is really more like creating a guidebook to return to during labor and delivery. A birth plan is a document that is intended to encourage women to think about birth practices, communicate with their health care providers, and ultimately make informed decisions. It should offer a woman confidence, freedom, and support. Planning is within the context of each woman’s “reality” – her lifestyle, health as the birthing process evolves, her personal preferences, her health care provider’s training and recommendations, and the logistics and regulations of the place of birth.

To create a birth plan, some questions a couple should discuss long before the delivery date include:

-Do you want the birth attended by an OB/GYN, family physician, or a midwife?

-Do you want the birth to take place at home, at a birthing center or in a hospital?

-If you’ve had a cesarean section for her last pregnancy, does you want a VBAC this time and is the doctor/midwife/facility equipped for and comfortable with that?

-If you’re employed, does you wish to work up to the end of the pregnancy? Are there any medical reasons why it might be advised to stop working before delivery date?

-What are your plans for use of medication and intervention? (place this below the others about birth place and attendant)

-Would you like to hire a birth doula or non-medical birth assistant? If so, they can visit for resources and information.

-Do you want music, television or movies playing during the hours leading up to the birth? If so, which music, what movies or what sorts of television programs? Likewise, what about scented candles, incense or aromatherapy? Does the birth setting they selected prohibit any of these items?

-Do you have other special requests regarding the delivery itself, such as a water birth, or special rituals/customs?

-Does you have support people to contact for help if needed?

-How many/which people do they want in the room during the delivery? Does the birth setting they selected restrict that number?

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-Do they want to videotape or take photographs during the delivery?

-Do they hope to breastfeed or opt for formula?

Creating a birth plan encourages pregnant women and their support team to process the above questions. It provides an opportunity to research information and to openly communicate fears, concerns and expectations for labor and birth. It also acts as an effective communication tool with the caregiver.

Whether the debate is about caesarian versus vaginal delivery, unmedicated delivery versus the use of medication, breastfeeding versus the use of formula or returning to work versus becoming a stay-at-home mom, it seems everyone has an opinion about women’s very personal decisions.  However, no outside person can or should determine what is right for each woman, her partner and her birthing support team.

This is the same reason childbirth preparation classes are useful. People sometimes say, “women have been having babies for thousands of years; they don’t need someone to teach them how to do it.” However, the purpose of most childbirth classes is not to ‘teach’ women how to birth, it’s to increase the confidence of both women and their partners about this normal, natural process. Furthermore, it informs expectant parents about the latest research on various topics, so that they can make educated decisions.

Of course in the end, it’s important to remember the birth “plan” is really just an outline. Expectant parents must be willing to be flexible. As with most of life’s most worthwhile adventures, anything can happen when it comes to babies. And, regardless of exactly how the delivery plays out, it will make a great story to share with others.

About the Author:

Stefanie Antunes is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and certified birth doula with DONA International. As owner of Discover Birth, she helps expectant parents prepare for childbirth in a fun and positive way. She attends births with couples so they can fully experience the amazing potential of this transformative event. Stefanie, a mother of three, is an advocate in the childbirth movement, helping to decrease maternal and infant mortality rates across North America through awareness of safe practices and an evidence-based approach.



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