Expectant parents are well advised to prepare a birth plan in advance of labor and delivery to make sure things happen the way they want. But often, birth plans are all about the laboring mom and ignore the role that dad hopes to play. Here are some tips for developing a birth plan that meets the needs of mom, the baby, and dad.
Time Required: A couple of hours of communication with your partner and a doctor's visit
- Learn about birth plans. Many expectant parents today create a birth plan in conjunction with their OB/GYN or doula to clarify expectations about the labor, delivery and postpartum process. Check out the resources listed below to learn more about what should be in a birth plan.
- Birth plans for both mom and dad. While mom is in labor and delivery, there are a number of choices she has to make, which are shared here. But in each case, there is a role for dad as well. If he is the labor coach, he should have lots of things to keep busy with. So make sure and specify what dad is to do.
- Plan ahead for labor. There are lots of options for laboring parents. You can specify in the birth plan whether mom can walk around during labor. You can determine whether she will have an enema or not. You can specify when she receives an IV, whether she can watch videos or listen to music, and when dad and other non-medical people can be present. Write it all down in your plan.
- Plan ahead for medications. As a couple, talk about and include in your birth plan your medication philosophy. Do you want pain medications and at what stage of labor? At what point, if any, does your partner want an epidural? If labor is not moving quickly, does your partner want a labor stimulant (like pitocin) or would she prefer more natural means? All of these should be included in your birth plan, and dad should be authorized to communicate about them with the docs and nurses.
- Have a delivery plan, Once labor has moved into the delivery phase, you have even more choices. Decide, and include in the birth plan, the position your partner would like to be in for delivery. Does she want an episiotomy or not? Would you like a mirror placed so you and she can watch the delivery? Do you want to be able to take video or pictures of the experience? Dad, do you want to help cut the cord? Make sure and include all of it in the birth plan.
- Include your postpartum desires. Once the baby has arrived, you have additional choices. Dad can specify in the birth plan that he's like to bathe the baby soon after birth rather than just having a nurse do it. Often, the baby can even be bathed in the labor and delivery room. If the baby needs medical attention after birth, dad can usually come along if it is included in the birth plan. If mom wants the baby back ASAP, dad can help enforce that desire with hospital personnel.
- Review the plan with the doctors. Once your birth plan is drafted, both parents should take the plan with them to a regular doctor visit and review and get the doctor's approval (and signature). In addition, the plan should be reviewed with the baby's pediatrician and signed by him or her. Be prepared to defend your choices, particularly if they are not in the hospital's standard procedures.
- Take the written plan with you. Put three copies of the plan in your overnight bag for the hospital trip and make sure one is put in your hospital chart, one stays with mom in the room, and one is in dad's pocket. Often, you can leave a copy with the hospital staff when you have your prenatal class. Having lots of identical copies will help make sure you get your experience the way you want it.
- Be prepared for emergencies. Sometimes labor and delivery will not go as planned. If there are medical concerns about the baby or the mom that override the birth plan, be ready to adapt. Even though you hope for a good experience, the health and safety of baby and mom have to come first.
What You Need
- A prenatal class to learn about hospital procedures
- Some good books about labor and delivery
- A computer word processor to prepare your draft
- Patience in working through issues with medical personnel
- A strong will and courage to remind staff about your birth plan
- A supportive OB/GYN and pediatrician