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Things to Think About Before Labor
Giving birth is a miraculous experience, but it can also be a time of last-minute decisions because of all that is happening around you. Talking to your doctor or nurse about your birthing preferences is always helpful, but sometimes isn’t enough. When it comes time to deliver, everyone involved in the delivery should be aware of your birthing preferences.
What is a birth plan? When should I write a birth plan? What should I consider when writing my birth plan? Who should see my birth plan? Resources What is a birth plan? Top
More than ever, pregnant women are educating themselves about their choices for childbirth and writing them down in a birth plan. A birth plan is a simple and clear way to let your healthcare providers and labor coach know what you would like during labor and delivery. Your birth plan can be as simple as a letter stating your preferences or as detailed as some forms that can be found on the Internet.
When should I write a birth plan? Top
You should discuss your birth plan with your doctor between 32 and 36 weeks into your pregnancy. Your doctor should be able to tell you how much flexibility the hospital or birthing center will allow when you make choices for your labor and delivery.
What should I consider when writing my birth plan? Top
Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding on your birth plan:
Labor—If you are past your due date, do you prefer to wait until you go into labor naturally? After being admitted, will you choose to have an enema? Do you want your labor coach to take photos or video during labor? Do you prefer to lay on a bed or squat during labor?
Delivery—Who do you want present in the delivery room with you? If possible, do you prefer to deliver the placenta unassisted, without any procedures?
Anesthesia—Do you prefer no anesthesia unless you request it? Instead of anesthesia, do you want to try massage, guided relaxation by your labor coach, hot/cold therapy, change in position, etc.?
Episiotomy—Should your doctor wait to perform an episiotomy unless it’s necessary for you or your baby’s safety?
Cesarean—In the event of a cesarean, do you want your labor coach present? Who should hold your baby right after birth?
After Delivery—Who should cut the umbilical cord? Do you want a private room? Do you want to request “rooming in” which means that you and your baby will remain in the same room? If your baby has to be taken to another room for medical treatment, do you want your labor coach to stay with the baby? Do you want to postpone immunizations until a later time? If your baby is a boy, do you want him circumcised?
Breastfeeding—Will your baby have breast milk, formula or a combination of both?
Who should see my birth plan? Top
Once you have finalized your birth plan, make sure to give a copy to:
Your doctor (One for your office chart and one to send with your records to the birthing site.)
Your support people (i.e., labor coach, family)
The birthing site (Pack four copies in your suitcase and give one to the admitting staff, one to keep in the birthing room, one to your labor coach and one for yourself.
If you change your mind during delivery about the information on your birth plan, don’t worry. It’s merely a statement of preferences, not a legal contract. However, remember that a birth plan will never override medically necessary procedures such as a cesarean section.
Go to your local library or bookstore and talk with your healthcare provider about formulating a birth plan. The Internet also has a wealth of information on birth plans, including sample ones and step-by-step instructions on how to make your own plan. Visit www.birthplan.com. to see a sample plan.
Keep in mind that the most thought-out, detailed birth plan won’t take the place of clear communication with your doctor. However, your birth plan should prepare you for the choices you will have to make when you welcome your new baby into the world.
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