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Your baby’s birth

The term “birth plan” sounds like an oxymoron. After all, how much can you plan for an event as unpredictable as birth? Nevertheless, birth plans play a helpful role by encouraging parents to consider basic issues.

What’s in a birth plan?

Experts suggest a birth plan include your preferences in the areas listed below. Ask your healthcare provider how he or she feels about these issues to make sure your views aren’t incompatible.

  • Will I be free to walk in the hallways? Many women find that lying down makes labor more painful. On the other hand, remaining upright—either walking, standing or sitting—can make contractions seem less intense and help speed labor along. Routine use of IVs and electronic fetal monitoring (see below) can make this difficult.
  • Is continuous electronic fetal monitoring routine? A fetal monitor measures how a baby’s heartbeat responds to the contractions of the uterus. Many hospitals and doctors routinely use EFM during labor. However, some women find the monitoring intrusive. Discuss the issue with your healthcare provider.
  • What are the pros and cons of pain relief during labor? Read up on the advantages and disadvantages of the various pain-relief medications used in labor and delivery. This will allow you to state your preferences in the birth plan and to make informed decisions during labor.
  • Under what circumstances would an episiotomy be performed? An episiotomy is a cut performed to enlarge the vaginal opening. Some mothers want to avoid one if at all possible. If that’s how you feel, put it in your birth plan—and find out about exercises you can do to prepare and strengthen the perineum for delivery. Ultimately, however, the decision of whether an episiotomy is necessary is best made in the delivery room as the baby’s head crowns.
  • Can I nurse my baby immediately after birth? Most hospitals and birth centers put off weighing the baby and administering eyedrops until you have had time to nurse your little one. This may not be possible, of course, if there’s an immediate concern about the baby’s health.
  • If I need a C-section, will my spouse be allowed into surgery with me? This will depend on the circumstances of your C-section. If it’s planned, your spouse will almost certainly be allowed. If it’s an emergency, he almost certainly will not.