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Have a Birth Plan

Baby's Grand Entrance in Writing

You’re getting ready for a new baby.During all the excitement and preparation, one essential item to consider is taking time to write a birth plan. A birth plan is a tool that lays out your desires for birth and immediate postpartum. Share this information with your partner, your health care provider, and the nursing staff at the hospital or birthing center when you arrive for delivery. By writing it down, you can organize your thoughts – what you want or need for yourself, and what you want or need from your partner, your family and your healthcare provider, in order for the birth journey to be closer to the way you have envisioned it.

The best way to get a realistic picture of what that might be and to learn comfort measures and options for labor, is to attend childbirth education classes. Choose classes that review all comfort measures including relaxation, breathing techniques, a discussion of interventions, and medical options.
Childbirth classes should build the mother’s confidence in her ability to birth the baby by teaching her to trust her body, while teaching the partner comfort measures and techniques that support her during labor.

During the classes, start by seeing yourself in labor. Who is with you? Just your partner, maybe your mom, and/or a doula (a trained woman who provides physical and emotional support during birth). Visualize working with your body during labor by walking, standing, squatting, resting, soaking in a tub of warm water, or using slow breathing techniques while listening to music. Did you know you can wear your own clothes during labor? Which position would you like to use during the pushing phase? Then at the moment of birth, visualize guiding your baby onto your abdomen, and having your partner cut the cord while keeping your baby skin-to-skin on your chest (dried off and with a cap) for the first hour or until the first breastfeeding session is completed.

After completing classes and asking a lot of questions, it’s time to write a birth plan.Several web sites have samples of birth plans for you to use as a guide. Remember, the plan should be flexible. Ultimately, your baby is the author of the birth plan.If a C-section is needed, for example, you should be prepared with a list of desires for that medical scenario: having your favorite music playing; placing your baby on your chest, skin-to-skin immediately after the surgery; or having your partner hold the baby to begin the important bonding process. Most things are possible if you just ask. What if your provider doesn’t support your birth plan? Discuss the reasons why.If you don’t get an answer you can live with, then seek out a provider who is more willing to consider your wishes.

In 25 years of teaching and working as a birth doula, I’ve seen many women who are timid about requesting things, especially once they enter the hospital setting. This is why writing and sharing a birth plan is essential. Having a written birth plan will communicate your wishes without you having to remember each detail while experiencing labor. So enjoy your pregnancy, attend childbirth classes, talk with your partner, write a meaningful birth plan, and you will be on your way to an exciting birth journey.

Kathy Malone Stewart is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner, lactation consultant, certified birth and postpartum doula and trainer, and published author.
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