Jess posed this question recently on the site, and we decided to take it down and build en entire post around it. What do you guys say — did you have a birth plan?

On_my_shelf I know what my options are and am educated on birth as I am in health care (in Canada). I like the hospital my doctor works out of but if I had to go to the other hospital in town I’d be ok with that, too. I don’t have plans to either have or not have an epidural. It’s my first baby so I just want to see how it goes and make the decision as it comes.

I understand why women like birth plans… but I just don’t want one. I find that the idea of a birth plan (for me personally) actually to be kinda stressful. It’s like putting pressure on myself to perform in a particular way when this experience is completely new to me. I know that most women find the birth plan to be reassuring and really enjoy having one. I think plans are a great idea but I still don’t want one. I haven’t met any other women who also feel this way.

Are there any other offbeat mamas who just aren’t doing a birth plan?

Comments on Do I have to have a birth plan?

  1. I think it is very helpful to the nurses in the hospital if you have one. Even if all you are telling them is basically “I don’t have a plan. Let’s see how it goes.” Usually its a good idea to have a little introductory paragraph about you and your partner, too. Itโ€™s a nice way to let them know a little about you. They really do want you to have the best experience possible, so that’s why they ask for one. (if they are asking for one that is)

  2. I’m with you, actually. I have a basic idea of the biggies. Otherwise? I know there’s only so much I *can* plan, and I know that if I try too hard, I’ll just freak myself out at the time when things might end up different.

    • I agree with Beth. I had my baby girl in jan of this year. I planned for a home birth and got a hospital one instead. I planned for no drugs and excepted morphine and nitrous oxide. I didn’t write a birth plan for fear that murphy’s law might kick in. But as a Doula I believe that for some people writing down their plan helps them evaluate everything in detail, for others it can lead to turmoil when things don’t go as planned (keep in mind that this may not be you but could be your birth partner). Think about who you are, who your birth partner is and just go with the flow. Make sure if you don’t write it down that your doctor is well aware of your wishes.

  3. I had this huge, like 3 page, birth plan. I ended up being induced and forgot to give it to anyone when I got to the hospital that morning. The whole idea is to make you comfortable with your birth; if you already are, don’t bother with it.

  4. There are several templates for birthplans now that definitely include the option(s) of “I’m not sure”. To reiterate what Jessi said, I imagine it’s good for the nurses to know that. babycenter.com has a decent one that covers a wide scope, and sometimes looking at one you may see something you haven’t thought of that you may feel a certain way about. Never hurts to check one out.

    • I wasn’t going to make a birthplan but then at 35 weeks I saw the template on babycenter.com and decided to fill it out. There were some points on the template that I hadn’t even thought of!

  5. As some one else already said, it’s a good idea to let the nurses know your intentions. I didn’t really have a plan for my son. I was just like you, it was a new experience, how was I supposed to know? But it did help a lot to let the nurses and doctors know when we got to the hospital which things I was open to and which things I was completely against. It stopped needless questions, but even so, one of the very few things I was completely against going in there, I ended up using. Honestly, it’s just what makes you comfortable. If having a step by step, minute by minute birthing plan makes you feel better, do it. If not making one at all makes you feel more comfortable, do that. Just like many things that come along with birth, it’s all just a personal choice.

  6. Since I live an hour away from where I’m delivering, and my mother had two deliveries that lasted less than two hours, I simply can’t get past: GET THERE GET THERE GET THERE. I know I should come up with something else, but I keep thinking that I will just roll with the punches.

  7. If you don’t have any preferences as to medication/visitors/etc., you really don’t need a birth plan. I didn’t have one; and yet my nurses still asked me if I wanted an epidural, checked on me regularly, made sure I was comfortable, and monitored the baby closely. At one point I turned to my other side because the epidural medication was pooling on my right, and the baby’s HR dropped, so they flipped me back immediately. My point is, they are highly trained. The only reason you’d absolutely need a birth plan is if you didn’t trust your practitioners, in which case you likely wouldn’t be going to them in the first place.

  8. Birth plans make me really uncomfortable. At first, I really liked the idea. But now, after looking at all these different options, I’m totally freaked out about it. There’s just so much that I really don’t have an opinion on either way, even after doing all the research. However, the big things that I knew I really cared about (things related to breastfeeding) are something that I’ve talked about with my doctor to see what normal procedures are. Unfortunately, I have no idea what doctor I’ll have when I give birth. So we’ll probably bring a copy of a very short list of must haves because there are a few things we feel strongly about. And then, I just hope it doesn’t become an issue. No one has asked us for a birth plan, and I’m kind of concerned that bringing one will just make things more difficult.

    Anyway, could be giving birth any day now, so I can update this to let you know how my experience went with a very simple birth plan that probably won’t be discussed with the nurses or doctors ahead of time (because there’s no way to do that).

    Oh, and I’m also in Canada (Calgary!). ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. i had a birth plan (homebirth with a midwife) and ended up with the absolute opposite (forced unnecessary c-section). so, clearly, my plan went to hell. ๐Ÿ™‚ all that being said, i’m in the camp that you should have birth plan.

    having a birth plan doesn’t mean you’re type a, controlling the hell out of your birth. it just means that you’ve educated yourself and you know what you would *prefer*. and if you’re in a hospital setting it helps those around you who haven’t been with you through your pregnancy respect the pregnant/laboring person that you are.

    there’s no doubt that very few people actually have their births go EXACTLY to plan so i think that it’s smart to not form a super strong attachment to your ideal birth, but to have no plan i think is a little bit too relaxed. even if your birth plan solely focuses on the care of the baby after it’s born you need to have that. (but i would say it should probably cover a little more than after birth care.)

    as a doula in training, mama, and huge supporter of pregnant/laboring women in general a mama that felt anxiety about making a birth plan and just opted to avoid it all together would concern me. even though our bodies are built to take on this amazing challenge that doesn’t mean you don’t prepare for it. my birth plan was short and sweet so i’m not saying a novel is necessary but you need to know what you do and don’t want. a mama that avoided a birth plan because it caused her anxiety would make me think that her real anxiety came from giving birth itself. i could be a million miles off base with this because EVERY birthing mama is different but it would seem like she wouldn’t have to deal with the fear of giving birth until she was in labor if she didn’t have to make the birth plan.

    when we wound up in the hospital i was a wreck. i knew we didn’t need to be there, i knew that my midwife was failing me, and i knew that my baby was going to be born in my worst of the worst case scenarios. it was devastating, but because i had a birth plan, even through all those emotions (DURING ACTIVE LABOR I MIGHT ADD) i was able to cling to the few things that i wanted that could be done in the hospital, i.e. my husband cutting the cord and announcing the gender, my husband holding the baby to his chest after the baby was born, no bath, no eye drops or shots, no sugar water to jump start breastfeeding…

    but, big BUT, i think ultimately what’s important is that a person does what feels right to them. :)))))))

    • I think you might be reading a bit too much into the no birth plan = fear thing. Just because you haven’t written a plan on a piece of paper doesn’t mean you haven’t been thinking and considering your choices.

      • oh of course not! i’m sorry that’s what came across as my point. :/ bad wording on my part because that’s not at all what i was getting at. jeez, now i feel bad!

        i never said anything about WRITING a birth plan to be fair though.. my opinion is that deciding what you do and don’t want ahead of time is what you should do. and that to me is a birth plan. someone who was stressed out by it would just concern me a little, but i know that what makes me feel good/is right for me has nothing to do with what is right for someone else.

        having a baby is hectic and having a loose idea of what you would like is helpful. ๐Ÿ™‚ that’s really all i was getting at. sorry it came across like a lack of typed paper=lack of thinking and considering…because of course it doesn’t!

        • Well the thing was I didn’t know what I was going to want for the delivery of my first baby. What I knew I didn’t want were any restrictions about how I should act or how things should go. For example what if I had said that I didn’t want the nurses to talk to me about pain control and then half way through the labor I changed my mind. Then I would have a nurse who was reluctant to talk to me about an epidural because I had specifically asked her not to. Not to mention a husband who would be very confused about how he should best support me. It is things like that that I found stressful about a plan(written or loosely verbalized). The birth itself didn’t frighten or stress me out but the idea of trying to premeditate it did. Does that make sense?

  10. I was also undecided about having an epidural and like you wanted to see how the birth would go (I am also in Canada). I think you may be stuck on the word ‘plan’ – I didn’t like it either, but a birth plan is not how the birth will go, down to the letter, but more a list of your desires. You can include things you would like to have (e.g. dimmed lights, less interventions as possible), and those you would really rather avoid (e.g. episiotomy). I think the Drs and nurses will appreciate knowing your wishes. Remember, while in labour you may not be able to formulate the words to let them know.
    Furthermore, the hospital/birth centre staff know that birth plans change, and will accommodate you and your changing wishes as much as they can.

    • This. As much as anything, I think the process of coming up with a birth plan is about thinking through what could happen, and letting your support person know your preferences, so they can advocate for you. we never wrote a plan, but my husband and I talked through options & he could then talk for me at times i couldn’t.

      We also, as a result of the process, came up with a plan for ourselves re: pain relief – I planned to go without an epidural, but left my options open. we had a safe word, and a rule that if i asked for it, he was supposed to wait five minutes and ask me again. the safe word was great because it meant i could say “maybe i need drugs” without immediately triggering said drugs. (just saying that helped the through, as a matter of fact.)

  11. I didn’t have a formal birth plan for either of my babies. I made sure my nurses knew I didn’t want to be offered pain meds, but would decide if I wanted them as I went (epidural both times). And that I wanted to snuggle my babies skin to skin immediately after. Otherwise, we just kind of let things happen. Make a birth plan if you have a lot of really specific things you want. If not, you’re fine without one.

  12. Most times, your doctor and nurses will ask you tons and tons of questions. And while you’re in labor, making those decisions might be more than a little bit of an annoyance. So just having a vague plan is good. That’s not to say that you’ve got to decide right away DEFINITELY DOING THIS, ALL THIS WAY. That’s just to say that “I’d like to make the decision about an epidural when I get into labor… can you be sure someone lets me know when we’re getting to the point that I HAVE to decide? I don’t want to get stuck being in labor past the point of that being available to me without having made a decision on that.”
    My advice is to write down those stipulations and keep them in your emergency pack. It doesn’t matter how many times you communicate your wants and desires along the way, you need to re-communicate them as you check into the hospital.

  13. I think that birth plans can be a little overwhelming. This is what worked for us when I had my oldest son at the hospital.

    One sheet of paper … my name, partner’s name, doctor’s name and the basics for what I wanted in point form …

    ie. I would like to try to do it without drugs. If I DO want drugs I prefer gas or epidural. NO NARCOTICS PLEASE.
    We are open to any pain management tips/suggestions you have.
    I would like to try to push on my side.
    I want my partner to cut the cord.
    I want skin-to-skin contact immediately. Initiate breastfeeding, as soon as possible.
    In the event of a c-section, I would like skin-to-skin contact, as soon as possible.

    That was about it. I decided what was REALLY important to me (immediate contact, breastfeeding) and just went from there.

    It was clear, easy to read and you know what, our nurses actually read it (even at shift changes) and helped us out. We had a great hospital delivery, and it went pretty much how we “planned.” I used the plan as a way of sharing my wishes/preferences rather than a minute-by-minute detail of how it was going to go or how I wanted it to go.

    I absolutely believe that birth is unpredictable and you have to go with it, but I also believe it helps to have a clear idea of what you do want and what you don’t want (when possible and safe, of course).

    With my second son, we had a home birth with a midwife. Because we had discussed what I wanted, I didn’t feel the need to have a “plan.” Also, I knew who would be there and there wouldn’t be a shift change and the need to relay any messages to totally new people.

    Good luck!

  14. Due in one week. Also have no desire to “make a birth plan”. Don’t feel I have any fear related to labor and delivery…would just prefer to just hop in and see where the flow takes me. In the case that I lack enough control to articulate my wishes, I have confidence in my husband who can be the voice for me. Pland and schedules are my least favorite part of life to begin with!

    • This is very much how I felt about it. I am a nurse and a paramedic so I am well aware of hospital protocol, what info the nurses will be looking for etc. I just didn’t want to make any plans (tentative or not) about such a new experience to me. You are bang on by saying you just wanted to “hop in and see where the flow takes me”

  15. I didn’t have a plan for either of mine. My only goal was to get the baby out the safest way possible. We kept our minds open about what that would mean and how it would happen. I feel better, personally, not having a plan so if it doesn’t go according to plan I don’t have any negative feelings regarding the experience. I felt more in control of things when I accepted that I can’t control things…if that makes sense

  16. I like the idea of birth plans. If you’re in a hospital, you may be working with several different nurses because of shift changes, and the OB or midwife you started out with may not be the one who delivers your baby. So a birth plan is a good way for the docs, nurses, and midwives to get to know you. It’s also a good way to let them know what’s important (or not really important) to you. Of course birth is unpredictable, so plans don’t have to be written in concrete. If you have a change of heart about something mid-labor, you have the right to change your mind. It’s your body after all, and you have a legal right to informed consent and refusal at any time.

  17. I felt the exact same way! I went in with no birth plan and rolled with the punches. In the end, I needed Pitocin to jump start my labor, had an epidural, and had an emergency c-section. The only thing I knew I wanted was breastfeeding right after the birth. That plan was shot when they took my baby directly to the NICU. Up until the c-section/NICU portion of the program, my labor went very smoothly and I felt blissfully happy. The epidural was the right choice for me in the moment and my husband and I were able to spend my labor talking about our baby and connecting with each other. I felt comfortable with our nurses and doctors and was able to make decisions as situations arose.

    While I do not think a birth plan is necessary, I would definitely think over all of the possibilities to prepare yourself. I did not really consider a c-section until it was happening and it was very upsetting.

    I also realized after the fact just how attached I was to the idea of breastfeeding right after birth. It has been six weeks and I still cry every time I think about my baby being whisked away to NICU. While I outwardly told myself I “had no birth plan”, I realized too late that I had an idealized vision that did not work out. I wish I had taken some time to think about all the possibilities and discuss them with my husband. If we had talked about c-sections and the NICU prior to the birth, I think the whole process would have been easier for both of us.

    I hope the birth of your baby is a beautiful, blissful experience! I would highly recommend talking over your hopes and fears with your partner or other birth support people. Even without a “plan”, the feeling of being emotionally prepared is invaluable.

  18. My birth plan is very basic- no visitors while in active labor except my husband, Yes please to painkillers, Health delivery no matter what the circumstances, skin to skin contact ASAP, I am breastfeeding. I’m weighing cord donation at the moment.

  19. When I had my baby two months ago my birth plan was “healthy mom, healthy baby, epidural and don’t forget my wife is becoming a mother today too.”
    We had read about and talked about some of the different options that are included in typical birth plans but chose not to write any of them down. As an anesthesiologist, it seems that the patients that end up at the university hospital with a crash c-section are the ones with the extremely detailed, three-page birth plans. I know my sample size way skewed but I wanted to avoid the crash section. And, at the hospital where I delivered, it is standard practice to do immediate skin-to-skin, start breastfeeding early, etc, so I didn’t feel that writing it down would be of any benefit.

    • You’re observation about c-sections is spot on. My father is a labor and delivery nurse, and according to him, the more rigid and complex a patient is about their birth plan, the more likely they are to end up needing a c-section.

      He suggested that birth plans are best as flexible guidelines for the things that you feel strongly about. Having my plan meant that when my midwives came to tell me my options when my labor wasn’t progressing, they knew what my preferred treatments were.

  20. I didn’t have any strong preferences for how I wanted things to go down. I had no idea if I would want medication, didn’t care if I got an episiotomy or not, had no strong feelings re fetal monitoring, was totally ok with the idea of a c-section if things got rocky. I was completely focused on the end result and really didn’t care about the process; I didn’t expect to enjoy it in any event, and I trusted the midwives to make the right medical decisions. So I really felt there was no point to a birth plan for me.

    I never regretted not doing one! Seriously, it never crossed my mind during the birth. It just wasn’t an issue. (In the event, I happily took every form of pain relief on offer; I also had an instrumental delivery and episiotomy, which was no big deal at all — I honestly hardly noticed it.)

    So yeah, if you don’t want to do one, and you don’t actually have particular preferences about the birth, then you absolutely don’t have to do one.

  21. If I were in your shoes, I probably wouldn’t do one, except maybe the intro one suggested by a few people.

    In my own case, I had two. One for my homebirth which was basically a set of principles my MW and I agreed on (which I wrote down per her request) and a super short “If I end up transferring, this is my bare minimum wishes.”

    I had a beautiful (painful, transforming, painful, amazing and yes, painful but so worth it) homebirth.

    What I wish now that I had had was a “birth plan” for my miscarriage last year (I ended up in the ER bc my midwife was not legally allowed to take responsibility and my husband was out of state on a job interview). I ended up being mostly ok, but it would have been nice to have had something “in place” so I didn’t have to keep being asked things. (But probably it still would have sucked.)

  22. It’s a choice we all have. I have no birth plan up to yet and have no plans to make one. I’m 5 months preggers and will take whatever comes as it’s my first baby and I have no idea what to expect. I think sometimes if a ‘plan’ doesn’t go the way you expect it can make the situation more stressful. It’s a new experience for me and I’m anxious about giving birth so whatever happens happens. If I need pethadine/epidural, I’ll have them, if I don’t I don’t. Maybe if I have a second I’ll know what I want/don’t want, etc but for now I’m going to have to expect the unexpected.

  23. You don’t need to write out a birth plan, but the process of discussing the ideas in most birth plans with your practitioner and your partner is really useful. My partner knew my feelings about epidurals, so when one was suggested to me, he and I were able to discuss it having already thoroughly thought through it. It also made him better able to advocate for me — he knew EXACTLY how I felt about certain things.

    But make sure you’re worried about the right things — some women make requests on their birth plan regarding outdated processes and procedures. If you’re planning a hospital birth, take a tour of the hospital and ask questions about their policies.

    Penny Simkin’s book The Birth Partner is my go-to book for this stuff — even though it’s aimed at partners and doulas, it’s a useful book for pregnant folks, too.

  24. I am not a huge fan of birth plans either. I’ve seen a couple women who set their idealized birth wishes down and then felt guilty when they change their minds. I’m not in healty care but have been by the bedside for four live births. These experiences helped me decide birth is unpredicitable and going to be a new experience for me since I will be in the bed this time. I was also excited to learn my hospital has changed its procedures to incorporate all the things I really wanted. Instant skin-to-skin time, encouraging the first breastfeeding session happen withing the first hour or so, keeping baby in the room as much as possible, etc. As far as drugs, who cuts the ambilical cord and all the other details…well we’ll decide what feels right at the time. Good Luck!

  25. I didn’t have one for either of my two births, since I felt like you and just wanted to let things happen as they played out. The nurses and the doctors were more than fine with this- they know what to do! Both births were great experiences.

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