A birth plan is a great way to communicate your preferences and priorities to your caregivers for your labor and delivery. If you are delivering in a birthing center or hospital, the midwife or OB attending your birth will most likely not be the one that you have been seeing throughout your pregnancy, but rather another person from their practice. This means that you need to quickly inform them of your wants and needs. The best way to do this is through a visual birth plan. Below I have listed some tips for creating your birth plan, as well as steps to creating a visual birth plan with Google Docs. (If you are one of my doula clients, we will make your birth plan together in our prenatal meetings).
Tips for Creating Your Birth Plan
1. Narrow it down to what's most important to you. Doctors and nurses are very busy, and are most likely tending to multiple women in labor. If you hand them a detailed birth plan that is a wall of text, a list of 25+ things, or multiple pages long, it is very unlikely that they will read and/or remember it. Try to narrow it down to the things that matter most to you.
2. Find out what protocol is in your hospital or birthing center. In the hospital that I delivered, it is standard to do skin-to-skin immediately after birth, they do not separate your baby from you unless it is an emergency situation, and they help you to initiate breastfeeding shortly after delivery. So, it would have been unnecessary for me to include any of those items in my birth plan. When I was researching information about birth plans, I saw people including things like- I do not want an enema, I do not want to be shaved, and I do not want my baby taken to the nursery. These things are very old school and it is VERY unlikely that it is standard practice for your hospital. Talk to your doctor or midwife about the protocol at your hospital or birthing center, so that you can eliminate items that do not apply to you. If you are planning a home or birthing center delivery, make sure you research your back-up hospital in case you end up going there.
3. Make it visual and easy to read. My doula training instructor told us that one of her clients brought her birth plan to the hospital in the form of a beautiful brochure. The nurses thought it was really cute and they were all talking about it, so you can bet they remembered what she wanted! Your caretakers will be more likely to read and remember your birth plan if it is graphic and visual, rather than lots of text.
4. Think about what you want when things don't go according to plan. When you think about your desired birth experience and make your plan, you probably are not envisioning interventions or a C-section. But, the reality is that births rarely go according to plan. In fact, it is when unexpected things happen that you will be glad that you've thought things out ahead of time and can make an informed decision.
Creating a Birth Plan with Google Docs
1. Title. Open your Google Doc and give it a title. I went with the standard title of "Birth Plan," but feel free to come up with something snappier.
2. Your Information. Include your name and any other pertinent information, such as any medical concerns, allergies, complications with your pregnancy, or previous delivery complications. You can also include the names of your doctor or midwife, your preferred pediatrician, who you want in the room with you, and who you do not want in the room with you. You can make it as detailed or simple as you'd like.
3. Note to your Caregivers. I chose to include a note to say thank you and generally state that I wanted to avoid interventions as much as possible.
4. Insert a Table. Click on "insert", then hover over "table" to choose how many boxes you want. I went with 9, but you could certainly do more or less.
5. The Plan. In each box, type one of your items or preferences. Try and write as simply as possible, so it is easy to quickly read.
6. Add Pictures. Here's the fun part! Try to think of an image to illustrate each item. Then, use google to find a simple clip art picture. For example, my first item was to avoid pain medication so I wanted to have a picture of a syringe to reflect that. I googled, "Clip Art Syringe" and found that picture. I decided to use all black and white clip art images to make my Birth Plan look neat and uniform. To add the image to your document, you can simply copy and paste it into the box you want.
On my example birth plan, I only included items related to labor and delivery. If you'd like to include your preferences about newborn care, you can add more boxes to the table. You could even have a second table on the other side of your birth plan depending on how detailed you would like to be. What's most important is that you get the best possible birth experience because you were able to convey your desires to your support team.