Forget Writing a Birth Plan: Do This Instead

A reasonable alternative to a formal "to-do" list

The Sensible Alternative to a Birth Plan |

As you may have discovered throughout your pregnancy, the Internet is full of must-do’s and you-better-not-forgets when it comes to pregnancy, labor, delivery and parenting. While there are some nuggets of truth hidden in the helpful, mile-long registry lists and novel-length birth plans, there’s also an awful lot of nonsense.

The problem is, many sites contain outdated information, use misinformed scare tactics, and promise mothers an unrealistic, downright impossible level of control.

As your provider has likely told you, every pregnancy and every delivery is different. Anything from medical emergencies to forgetting your painstakingly curated birth playlist can — and will — derail any overly detailed plans.

Benefits of a Birth Planning

So should you scrap the birth plan altogether? Not so fast.

Birth plans are a good exercise, especially for first-time parents. Going over a plan found on a reputable site can help you figure out what questions to ask your provider.

Don’t assume you understand all the medical gobbledygook. Highlight any terms you don’t understand so you can bring them up at your next checkup. Your provider can help clarify medical jargon, explain your alternatives, educate you on why certain methods are preferred, and help you dismiss points that are irrelevant or outdated.

Trouble with Birth Plans

The trouble with birth plans is that births don’t go to plan.

Don’t believe me? Just ask the 4% of women who give birth in their cars.

Birth plans are intended to help parents make informed decisions and advocate for their care. That only works if the plan is discussed with medical professionals prior to labor. Your preferences and desires are important but don’t confuse opinion with medical expertise. Your delivery team will, together, have decades of medical training and practical experience under their belts. The hours you logged on parenting forums aren’t comparable.

In fact, refusing to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances of delivery can be dangerous. Many inexperienced or Type A parents become illogically rigid about their birth plans and refuse to accept changes that need to be made for the health and safety of mother and child. Remember the medical team is not trying to ruin your plan or disrespect your wishes. They’re trying to safely deliver your baby.

Helpful Alternative

Giving birth is an emotional roller coaster, so it’s best to discuss your preferences when you’re calm instead of waiting until you’re mid-contraction.

Once you know your preferences, skip the multi-page manifesto and grab an index card. Write down your top 3 desires for your birth and a few questions. Three simply stated preferences are a lot easier to review with the delivering doctor than a 40-page birthing thesis.

A simple card might read:

Wish List:

I want to stay up and moving as long as possible.

I would like to try a natural — medication and painkiller free — labor.

I want my husband, mother and sister in the room with me.        


Are there alternatives?

Could you please explain more?

The questions above may seem simple, but even the simplest phrases can fly out of your head during a contraction. Have your birth partner keep the card handy during the mayhem. It will serve as a quick, simple reminder of what you want and how to advocate for your wishes.

Bottom line? You have enough to learn and do to prepare for the arrival of your baby. Skip the long list. Talk with your doctor, learn all your options, keep a simple note and accept that nothing will go to plan. If not having control stresses you out, just keep in mind the end goal of getting to hold your little bundle of joy.

 RELATED: Home Birth or Hospital Birth? 

Jennifer Landis is a freelance writer and healthy living blogger. She drinks tea in excess, has a collection of peanut butters, and is a super nerd at heart.