Birth Plans Are for Smart Moms Who Don't Like Enya

Christie Haskell

There's a lot of misconceptions out there about what a birth plan is. Most women conjure up some image of a diva who is bossing around every single hospital employee, saying she will birth in THIS position, monitoring can only be done when she says so, and only Enya may play on the radio. Or no Enya. Choice is yours.

Moms insult other moms for having birth plans, saying it sets them up for disappointment and plans get ruined anyway since birth is unpredictable. Even nurses admit to laughing at women with birth plans.

But it's your baby, your birth, your life -- you should care how it all goes down. Comments that put down birth plans all have one thing in common: a distinct and obvious lack of understanding of what a birth plan actually is.

A birth plan is not a mom's play-by-play guide of her envisioned birth. The goal is to consider as many things as possible and make educated choices about what you would prefer to have happen in any of them -- emergency c-section included.

Women cannot and should not be expected or expect themselves to make rational, logical, complicated decisions while in labor. In fact, the closer to delivery a woman gets, the more difficult even speaking becomes, and the more primitive the thought process becomes as well -- do you really, honestly think that's a good time to try to tell the doctor you'd like them to not clamp the cord immediately? No.

To leave it up to chance, to go in and decide you don't care what happens, is actually not even possible -- every single mom has made choices before her birth about things she does and doesn't want to happen. Did you talk to your doctor about whether or not you planned on breastfeeding? Whether you'd want an epidural or wanted to play it by ear?


Your doctor or nurse wrote it down in your file, so guess what? You have a paper birth plan! The only difference is that moms who make their own write it all out and have it present so that doctors don't have to keep checking your chart (which they won't). Doing it yourself makes it easier for everyone to remember your choices and helps prevent mishaps, such as a breastfed-only baby being given a bottle.

Let's look at some things that should be on your birth plan (because you should make one):

  • Breastfeeding or formula? Put a notecard in the baby bassinet as well with your choice. Mine said "BREASTFED BABY: ABSOLUTELY NO ARTIFICIAL NIPPLES OR FOOD." If you plan on formula-feeding, you can head off the lactation consultant by saying, "My birth plan says I don't want to talk to you."
  • Drugs? You can say, "I am open to an epidural but do not want anyone to suggest or offer one." You can also say absolutely or absolutely not.
  • Umbilical cord? Do you want to delay the clamping of the cord? Do you want a Lotus Birth? Or do you not give a crap and don't even want to see the thing?
  • Movement? Do you want to be intermittently monitored and walk around? If they have a birthing tub or even one you can use, you can write that in there. If you have no preference, that's fine, too!
  • Privacy and guests? If you absolutely do or don't want people to be there (mother-in-law, best friend) that's worth writing down. Some hospitals are training hospitals, and you can request that students not be allowed in your room.
  • Directed pushing? Request that you are not directed in pushing, and that you let them know when you feel you're ready, rather than allowing repeated cervical checks. Or not, your call.

There are a lot of things to consider when writing a birth plan, or even just giving birth. Be assertive and clear -- state your preferences rather than asking permission, and make it easy to understand. Write a topic headline, then bullet-point your goals:


  • I will breastfeed within the first hour, barring life-threatening emergency.
  • The bath, heel prick, and other exams other than the two APGARs will be delayed until after nursing.
  • The baby will be examined on me, not swaddled, immediately after birth, to facilitate breastfeeding.

Does it sound bossy? Sure. But it's a lot better than "I want to nurse the baby, if I can, as soon as possible, and I don't want her dressed, bathed or swaddled for a bit ..." See the difference?

So whether or not you think birth plans are for diva moms or are stupid and worthless, just write one anyway, and if you find a category you don't know how you feel about, take that time to research it, as you should have been doing your whole pregnancy.

What did you write on your birth plan?


Image via bark/Flickr

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