A Birth Plan: Should You Write One?


First, what is a birth plan exactly?

It is a way for you to communicate your wishes to your doctor or widwives (how you would ideally want labor to go, the “environment” you want to be in (door closed, dim lights, music…), what you want to avoid during labor (epidurals and drugs, cesarean, episiotomy…) and afterwards (testing and procedures), etc…)

Some have argued that there is no point having a birth plan if the doctor will barely be in the room in the first place; that “things happen” and most of the points on your birth plan will not be respected; that the longer your birth plan is, the more likely it will be ignored (along with a bonus eye roll from your doctor).

Here are a few reasons why you should have one regardless (although keeping it to one page might be a good idea):

It helps you process your own feelings about what you want and don’t want. It will make your philosophy about birth clearer in your mind.

It will alleviate your stress level during labor. You do not want to be yelling out what you want and/or don’t want as contractions are coming in stronger and stronger.

If you bring it with you to your next doctor/midwife visit, it will open the discussion ahead of time. You will be sure that he/she will be familiar with your wishes.

It will set the mood for your time at the hospital. Someone will most likely read it (even a few lines of it). My suggestion is to bring a few copies to hand out (one to every nurse in charge (if shifts change) and one to the doctor). They will see that you are educated about interventions, procedures, and testing and most likely adjust the way they do things.

However, do keep an open mind if things do not go your way and remember that in the end, the most important thing is your baby’s health.

For some inspiration, take a look at my birth plan below:


– I prefer to labor and deliver without any medication or drugs unless medically indicated

– I prefer not to be offered any pain relief

– I will use natural measures like meditation, massage, breathing and the birthing tub to help cope with contractions; I will change positions when I feel it is necessary

– I prefer to have no medication to speed up labor

– I prefer not to have my water broken before I am pushing

– I would prefer to eat and drink as needed during labor

– If labor needs to be accelerated, I would like to try natural methods first (walking, changing positions, nipple stimulation…)

– I prefer only external monitoring when needed (not continuous)

– I prefer no internal exams except to establish active labor (if needed) and to check for complete dilation before pushing

– I prefer to move around freely during labor with lights dim and doors closed

– I prefer no episiotomy unless absolutely required for baby’s safety and would like perineal support, massage or hot compresses to help avoid a tear if necessary

– I prefer that no vacuum or forceps are used

– I prefer to try all a natural options before considering a cesarean and will only consent to it for imminent medical reason

Birth Preferences

– Please place baby immediately on my chest and leave baby there

– Please clean/check baby on my chest and do not separate me from baby

– Should a cesarean become necessary, I would like my husband to remain with me at all times

– I would also like to have skin to skin with baby while being stitched and breastfeed as soon as possible

Procedures / Testing

– Please give me as much time with baby before shots/tests have to be administered (preferably in the room so we are not separated)

– Please do not give eye ointment until baby and I have bonded undisturbed for at least one hour

After Birth

– Baby will be exclusively breastfed; please do not offer pacifier, sugar water or formula

– I wish for baby to remain in my room 24/7 and will accompany baby to any testing

– I do not wish to receive any pain medication post labor and will cope with after pains naturally. Please do not offer medications or stool softener

– I would prefer to leave the hospital as soon as possible after birth

– Should a transfer be necessary for baby, please allow me to accompany baby

Be ready to add to this list as you see fit. It is a work-in-progress until your due date!

Posted by

Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

Leave a Reply