After washing and folding the baby’s clothes, registering for the hospital, packing my hospital bag, and getting my postpartum kit together, it was time to run my birth plan by my doctor. At 37 weeks pregnant, I didn’t want to wait too much longer just in case the baby decided to come early. Truthfully, I was nervous to show my doctor the official birth plan that I had put together, but she gave me the go-ahead! I was actually very relieved. I’ve had my birth plan typed out for weeks (I just like to cross things off of my to do list…) but was a little nervous to show it to her. She used to be a Labor & Delivery nurse before becoming an OB/GYN and told me she would help me make sure my birth plan was nurse-friendly. I took some time to think carefully about what I wanted out of my birth experience this time, and I wanted to come across as informed and involved, not demanding or inflexible regarding childbirth. After all, I have tons of respect for both OB/GYNs (my mom is one, and a great one at that!) and Labor & Delivery nurses, but I also prefer to go against the grain a bit in my desire to have a natural, unmedicated birth and provide a gentle birth experience for my baby. While I may not be able to prevent the unexpected from happening, I am able to use my birth plan to communicate my choices and preferences to my delivery team. I am sharing my birth plan in hopes that other moms-to-be can benefit from this natural birth plan template!
What is a Birth Plan?
Your baby’s birth is a shared journey between you, your baby, the father, and your delivery team. And there is one primary end goal: to ensure the health and safety of mom and baby. Your birth may turn out just as you hope it’ll be, or it may unfold a little differently than you had planned or expected. It’s best to plan for the unexpected, and remain flexible regarding how your birth story unfolds. But, you should still take the time to learn about your options during birth. You shouldn’t be a passive participant in your baby’s birth. There are a lot of options you can have a say in, and that’s why I am strongly in favor of having a birth plan.
Your birth plan is your voice.
Putting together a birth plan means taking the time to learn about your options and to specify your preferences and requests. It means being an active participant in your baby’s delivery. Yes, you should remain flexible. But being flexible doesn’t mean being a pushover and accepting anything and everything that is offered to you. By making your birth plan, you’re simply providing your doctor and nurses a breakdown of your preferences for birthing and for what happens after the baby is born. It’s a logical and logistical thing — during labor, you don’t want to have to repeat your preferences to each nurse who will be assisting you. You also don’t want to have to make important decisions on the fly if you don’t have to. Having your choices down on paper makes it easier for everyone, including you.You shouldn't be a passive participant in your baby's birth.Click To Tweet
Should I make a birth plan?
Absolutely. 100%. Definitely.
Making a birth plan doesn’t mean you are trying to dictate how your birth will go, and it doesn’t mean that you are trying to be a know-it-all. But – it’s your pregnancy and your birth and your body. You get to decide if you want to take Pitocin. You get a say in whether you are hooked up to an IV or if you can stay mobile. You get a say.
That goes double if you’re hoping for a natural unmedicated childbirth. Like we said above, there’s no use in trying to actually plan out how your birth will go; instead, you should write out your birth plan to empower yourself. To communicate your choices, preferences, and birth intentions. Not to control your birth experience, but to take the time to decide what is important to you and what choices you want to have a say in.
Why a natural, unmedicated childbirth?
No one is any more or less of a mom if they birth without an epidural or if they have a c-section.
But, I am a strong believer that it is healthiest and safest to forgo medication and interventions if possible. That includes induction and pain medication — and I speak from experience because I was medically induced with my first pregnancy but opted out of pain medication.
It’s not that childbirth isn’t painful. Of course it is. And truthfully, I’m not sure I have the highest pain tolerance. But I believe that a natural birth is best for mom and baby, so that’s my preference and intention for birth. When you avoid epidurals and interventions, you and your baby can have a much easier, speedier recovery. Not to mention, you’ll be more alert and present during the delivery of your baby.
I’ve crafted my birth plan with natural, unmedicated birthing in mind. But if you don’t know whether you’d like to go all-natural, you can simply download and modify the natural birth plan template I’ve provided below, and modify it according to your own preferences.
Can you have a natural birth in a hospital?
Yes! Even though my pregnancies have been low-risk, I have chosen to deliver in a hospital instead of a birthing center or at home. While the risk of needing to be transferred to a hospital may be quite low for low-risk pregnancies, things still happen. And in the event that an emergency does occur, and the baby or I would need to be transferred to the hospital, every second counts. I tend to err on the safe side and I do take comfort in knowing that my hospital is equipped to handle any emergency, should one occur. And I also feel confident that I am equipped with the knowledge to have a natural birth and make my own decisions, even in a hospital setting.
Here are some of the key factors in helping you have a natural birth in a hospital setting:
- You have to trust and feel comfortable with your healthcare provider. First and foremost, you must have an OB/GYN or midwife who supports your desire and intention to have a natural birth. If you don’t trust your doctor, or feel like your wishes aren’t being respected or that they’re dismissive of your questions, you may want to consider switching to a different healthcare provider. Like, now. The care provider you choose plays a huge role in your birth experience, and can and will affect how you experience your baby’s birth and how you feel during recovery. Don’t put your birth experience (and your baby) in the hands of someone who doesn’t support you and your wishes for an unmedicated childbirth. If you’re in the Los Angeles area and need a referral, contact me.
- You have to commit to a natural birth. You’ll need to mentally commit to having a natural birth. You can do it. There are tons of great natural birthing classes you can take and techniques you can study. I personally recommend this particular Hypnobirthing technique. You can also listen to Hypnobirthing audio recordings and birth affirmations with a free 30-day trial to Amazon Music Unlimited. The birth affirmations and recordings are a great way to mentally prepare yourself for labor and birthing.
- You should be informed about medical interventions and the choices you can make about your childbirth experience. That’s one of the main benefits of putting together a birth plan. You’ll consider everything from induction techniques and pain management to how you’d like your baby to experience their first moments after being born. For some information about induction and c-sections, you could watch The Business of Being Born (also available free streaming on Netflix), but I don’t agree 100% with the characterization they make of MDs and why c-section rates are so high. However, it is a very useful and informative series on natural birthing.
- You should be supported in your decision to have a natural birth. It can be deflating if the people closest to you – your family, spouse, or other birth attendees – don’t support your decision to have a natural childbirth. Have a conversation about your birth preferences with those people who play a strong and important role in your life. And if you have the budget for it, consider hiring a birth doula to support you during birth. You may even be able to find a doula-in-training for a reduced fee. In any case, most women love having a doula. Just be sure to find someone that you click with and that you feel is qualified to support you during birth.
Natural Birth Plan Template: What’s in my Birth Plan
There are so many ways you can make a birth plan, and you should craft one that makes sense for you. One of my goals in structuring my birth plan was to make it as easy to read as possible. With that goal in mind, I’ve divided it into three sections: delivery, after birth, and baby care.
NOTE: This is my birth plan, and should be used as an example you to modify and customize after consulting with your doctor. You should discuss these points with your healthcare provider, and make sure you are on the same page. This is not intended to serve as medical advice or to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease or to recommend any course of action.
Labor & Delivery:
- I prefer a natural and unmedicated birth. I like to list this first so that the nurses know right away that my goal is to avoid medication and interventions if possible.
- No induction. I was induced with my first baby and while I was still able to deliver without an epidural, being induced was not the experience I was hoping for. It felt like my labor went from 0-60 very quickly and my recovery was somewhat difficult. I’ve also communicated to my doctor that I don’t want to be induced. (In the event I would need an induction, though, I would prefer a foley bulb induction, which can induce labor without medication.)
- No medication unless I am aware and provide consent. This is important because I want to make sure my consent is sought before any medication is administered. I am not too worried that I would be given medication without first being informed, but I have heard stories about women not finding out until after they had given birth that they were given a dose of Pitocin.
- I prefer my water to break on its own. I would rather allow this to happen on its own.
- I prefer no episiotomy unless necessary for baby’s safety. Thankfully, my doctor is on board with this and doesn’t take episiotomies lightly. Unless absolutely necessary, I would prefer to avoid one altogether and allow natural tearing.
- I do not consent to the use of forceps. Forceps are a surgical instrument much like tongs that are used to “guide” your baby during delivery. While they are said to help prevent the need for a c-section, the use of forceps does carry some risks to mom and the baby. I spoke to my doctor about this and luckily, she said that she rarely uses forceps and is on board with my preference to not have to use them at all.
- Quiet room and lights dimmed. Having the lights off or dimmed during labor really does make a difference in how relaxed you feel. I strongly encourage all moms to keep the fluorescent hospital lights turned off during the day, and dimmed at night.
- I’d like as few vaginal exams as possible. The truth is that I am a fan of cervical checks during labor because I like knowing how I’m progressing, but checking too often isn’t helpful. Imagine if you’ve been in labor for a few hours and have your cervix checked only to find out that you haven’t progressed much or at all; you don’t need to know and you definitely don’t need the disappointment during labor. To help keep you in the zone, avoid having your cervix checked too frequently. For example, with my first baby I got checked when I arrived at the hospital, again a few hours later, and once my doctor arrived to check on me. Even three exams is plenty! But they were spaced out far enough that I didn’t feel like I was constantly checking.
- Massage, hot therapy, shower, birthing ball. It’s up to you to decide what pain management techniques you’d like to employ during labor. What worked the best for me was standing in a hot shower and also proactively managing my breathing using Hypnobirthing techniques.
- Please do not offer an epidural/pain medication. I will request it if needed. I include this note because I don’t want to be prompted to get an epidural. I am really committed to an unmedicated birth so I’d like to avoid being asked if I’d like an epidural during a weak moment. Obviously, I know an epidural is available and I can ask for one if I determine that I need it.
- Minimal, intermittent fetal monitoring to allow for mobility. Unfortunately, my hospital doesn’t offer wireless fetal monitoring, so I have to be hooked up to the fetal monitor for 40 minutes each hour. I remember with my first baby that as my labor progressed, I couldn’t stand having the monitor on me. I kept taking it off, even when I wasn’t supposed to. Not only was it uncomfortable, but I wanted to be able to move around during my contractions. So, I request minimal fetal monitoring. But the truth is that the hospital has their own policy about how long I need to be on the monitor, so I’m not sure this request accomplishes much.
- Please coach me on pushing to help avoid tearing. While Hypnobirthing suggests that you don’t even need to actually push your baby out (instead, you can breathe the baby out), I would like to continue to be coached on pushing. It’s up to you! But the benefit of being coached on when to push is that you can hopefully avoid tearing by pushing during a strong contraction. Or, just go with what your body tells you to do.
- No episiotomy unless necessary (I prefer natural tearing). As mentioned above, I would prefer to tear naturally rather than have an episiotomy.
If a C-Section is Necessary
- Father to conduct skin-to-skin if I am unable to.
- Baby and mom to be reunited as soon as possible.
Hopefully, a c-section won’t be needed, but in the event that it becomes necessary I would like my husband to have the opportunity to do skin-to-skin right away. And of course, to prioritize being reunited with the baby.
Immediately After Birth
- Please allow for as much silence as possible immediately after baby is born. Looking at birth from the baby’s point of view, it must be a little jarring to come into the world not knowing where you are and what’s happening. To be considerate to the baby, and to provide a gentle welcome to the world, I request as much silence as possible for the moments immediately after birth. This also gives you the opportunity to be the first to speak to your baby, and to let them hear your familiar voice.
- Immediately place baby on my chest for skin-to-skin, and hold off on any tests until after the golden hour. Most hospitals automatically do this now, and mine gives us an hour or so of bonding time that they call “the golden hour”. Skin-to-skin has several benefits for mom and baby, and gives you the opportunity to nurse your baby right after birth. Having this in your birth plan also means that weighing the baby and other testing will be done after you have conducted skin-to-skin.
- Do not wipe down baby. Babies are born with a white, chunky coating called vernix, which is typically washed or wiped off right after birth. Not only is it unnecessary to wash or wipe it off of a baby right after birth, vernix has been found to have protective, germ-fighting and temperature-regulating qualities. (If you aren’t keen on keeping it on for days, you can wash it off later; but I prefer not to have the baby wiped down right after birth.)
Delivery of Placenta
- No Pitocin; please allow the placenta to deliver on its own. I’ve heard of women receiving Pitocin to speed up the delivery of the placenta. I find this excessive and unnecessary! The placenta will deliver on its own if left alone. There’s simply no need to add medication to the mix.
- My husband will cut the cord after it stops pulsating and turns white. I prefer to practice delayed cord clamping to allow the baby to receive more blood from the placenta. I have opted not to bank cord blood, though I believe you can still collect the tissue even if you practice delayed cord clamping. If you decide to delay cord clamping, make sure your doctor is on board with fully delaying until the cord stops pulsating, which can take a few minutes.
Hepatitis B Vaccine
- DO NOT administer the Hep B vaccine. I see no reason to administer this shot to a newborn and my pediatrician is ok with this decision.
Antibiotic Eye Treatment
- Only if tested positive and necessary. The antibiotic eye treatment is given to prevent neonatal conjunctivitis due to the mother having chlamydia or gonorrhea. Otherwise, if I do not fall into this category, I see no reason to administer an unnecessary antibiotic treatment. My pediatrician also supports me on this.
Vitamin K Shot
- Administer preservative-free Vitamin K shot. I try to avoid unnecessary medication and was on the fence about giving the Vitamin K shot, so I asked my pediatrician for her recommendation. Based on her past experience working with a doctor who didn’t administer Vitamin K to newborns, she strongly recommended that we administer the injection. She said that she had witnessed too many babies experience hemorrhaging who were not given the shot, and that it is imperative to give the shot. I trust my doctor and understood the need for administering Vitamin K. I did also ask about giving it orally, and she wasn’t in favor of this because dosing would need to be carefully monitored over several days. Based on this, and the fact that we will be circumcising, I have personally decided to administer the injection (but do request a preservative-free version).
- No formula, sugar water, pacifiers, or bottles. Though the hospital I deliver at is very pro-breastfeeding, I think it’s important to specify that I don’t want any formula or sugar water administered, or a pacifier given.
- Do not separate baby and mother. I am the kind of mom who will go everywhere with my baby in the hospital.
- Please do NOT bathe baby unless requested. I have brought my own shampoo. No lotion is needed. Babies don’t need a bath right away, especially in the hospital. I like to wait a few days before even giving a bath. In the event that I change my mind, though, I do like to bring my own baby shampoo along so that a conventional brand like Johnson & Johnson isn’t used. And, babies don’t need lotion.
- I plan to breastfeed exclusively. Please, NO formula, bottles, or pacifiers. As mentioned above, I don’t want any formula, bottles, or pacifiers to be administered because it may interfere with my plans to breastfeed. Of course, if I’m unable to breastfeed for some reason, this would change.
- No sugar water; pacifier is ok only during the procedure. Circumcision is a personal preference and a hotly debated topic – I recognize that. As I mentioned above, I am the kind of mom that goes along for every test and procedure my baby undergoes. I don’t let him out of my sight, basically, and that includes the circumcision. I strongly recommend being there for the procedure. Sugar water is often administered to babies on a pacifier or via syringe to help calm babies during the procedure. I prefer not to give sugar water at all, and only allow the use of a pacifier during the procedure.
Download My Natural Birth Plan Template
I hope that my natural birth plan template has been helpful! If you found this useful, please share this and be sure to download the template in Word format below.
Here’s wishing you the birth experience you dream about. <3