Birth guides, or birth plans, are lists that lay out your priorities for labor and the immediate postpartum. Whether at home or in the hospital, these can become great communication tools for your birth team (which includes your birth partner, doula(s), assistants/nurses, and your provider). What is important to keep in mind, however, is that a birth guide should only be used as a reminder and only *after* you’ve carefully selected your birthing environment and birth team.
A birth guide cannot fix choices that don’t support your idea of a healthy and happy birth.
What does a birth guide include?
- Introduction – Brief information about you and often accompanied with a box of cookies for the nursing staff. Baking homemade cookies are a great early labor activity.
- Labor Wishes – Include priorities such as your wishes for natural or medicated birth, ability to move and eat as you wish, and suggestion preferences from the birth team (including staff/provider) on how to birth your baby.
- Birth & Newborn Care Wishes – Will you allow the cord to stop pulsing on its own? Will you avoid vaccines or eye treatments? Have someone remind the staff that they are required to ask your permission before performing any procedures on you or the baby. Sometimes, this is overlooked. Will you allow the placenta birth to come naturally?
- Emergency & Cesarean Birth – Do you want to watch your baby being born? Which hospital would you prefer to be transferred to in case of an emergency? Which hospital would you prefer your newborn transfer to in case of an emergency?
There is a lot to think about, so start taking notes now. Find a provider (if you wish) and birth location that matches your belief of safety, health, and happiness for your baby and your family. Then, narrow down your priorities and consider alternative options for when birth takes a different course. This is why Esali Birth likes to refer to this as a birth “guide” and not a “plan.” You can’t plan biological birth – but you can prepare for it!
Keep your birth guide to no longer than a page, and only list simple bullet points that are easy to read and understand. Remember that if you're birthing in a hospital, the team probably has multiple other mothers they're working for and a lot of paperwork to complete. Take a hospital tour to get to know some of the staff before hand and know more of what to expect from the facility so you can better judge your choices. If you're at home, your birth team likely has taken a lot of time already to understand your vision for birth. If you exceed a page, you might want to consider changing your location and/or care provider to better match your wishes.
To learn more about all the options you have for birth, and in depth details on how your choices influence your baby and your birth, take an Esali Birth perinatal education class locally or online!