Positive pregnancy test? Baby’s due date right around the corner? In both of these situations and everything in between, understanding your options can empower you to birth your baby with the plan you confidently desire.
Your choices for your baby’s birth are personal. You can decrease surprises when you create the plan. We’ve outlined a birth menu just for you—consider these items as you prepare for your baby’s birth.
Tour Your Birthing Space and Prepare Mentally
It’s a good idea to tour the facility where you plan to give birth prior to labor. You’ll pre-register and view the inside of the labor, birth and post-birth recovery rooms. This tour gives you a mental picture of the available support equipment and sets your expectations for labor and birth. Browse online with facilities that offer virtual tours as you consider your community-wide options.
Set Your Preferences and Expect the Unexpected
Choose the preferences that you desire for your birthing experience and share them with your partner or support person. Finish your birth plan at least a month prior to your due date and discuss it with your pregnancy care provider. Share what is important to you and be open to changes or modifications based on your or your baby’s health condition.
Be flexible when giving birth. Events may differ from the plan that you originally designed. However, your provider and nurses understand the goal is for you and your baby to remain healthy. Keep an open mind throughout the process for any changes that may occur during labor, birth, or postpartum. An unpredictable scenario may be lifesaving.
Use this question-making method to outline what’s important to you.
The provider that you choose to support your baby’s birth will practice at specific hospitals or birthing centers. So know that your choice of pregnancy care provider often will determine where you will birth. Most women will birth in the following types of facilities:
- Birthing Center
- Home Birth
Tour the Birthing Facility
- Visitor policies determine how many people can be with you when birthing
- Flu and/or a re-emergence of COVID could change these policies
- Restrictions on recording videos or snapping photos?
- You may be asked to sign a release form prior to admission
- Electronic fetal monitoring options
- Is there an option for mobile monitoring to support movement around your room while laboring
- What complications could make me labor in bed with continuous fetal monitoring
- What is used to assess my baby’s heart rate if there are no electronic fetal monitors
- Pain management options, including whether you can ask for different options during labor
- Movement, breathing, massage, visualization, counter-pressure, shawl or wrap for comfort
- Water therapy, such as a birthing tub, bath or shower
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine
- Intradermal water block
- Nitrous Oxide
- Intravenous medications
- Available labor support equipment?
- Birth or peanut ball
- Rocking chair
- Squat bar
- Tub or shower
- Birth stool
- Modify the birthing bed
- What can be brought from home for use during labor?
- Speaker and playlist
- Massage tools or handheld massagers
- Aromatherapy (e.g., essential oils)
- Personal gown, socks, and slippers
- Massage tools or handheld massagers
- Hot or cold compresses
Once in Labor
- Is eating or drinking during early labor ok? How will this change as labor progresses?
- Walk the halls outside of the labor room?
- Ask to have the IV capped, as possible, to facilitate moving around?
- Use low lighting while laboring?
- Take rest breaks and naps without interruptions?
- Vaginal exams only when essential?
- Are mental health services provided if this birth experience is traumatic?
- What support options are available to me or my support person when birth doesn’t go as planned?
- Pushing options:
- Pushing in upright or sidelying positions
- Hands and knees
- Kneeling in bed leaning into raised head of bed
- Choices are respected, not forced
- Watch the baby emerge with a mirror
- Touch the baby’s head while crowning
- Partner supporting legs or back while pushing
- Changing positions while pushing
Birth and Bonding
- Can your partner or support person catch the baby?
- Can your partner or support person cut the baby’s umbilical cord after delayed cord clamping?
- Can baby go immediately skin-to-skin to facilitate recovery and breastfeeding?
- For what reasons would baby ever be separated from me at or after birth?
- Can all assessments of baby be done while skin-t0-skin postbirth?
- What procedures and/or medications are given to baby after birth?
- Can those be delayed until baby has nursed?
- Can the baby’s bath be delayed between 8 to 24 hours?
- Will the care team leave the vernix on baby at my request?
- Are lactation consultants available to share how beginning breastfeeding will be supported?
- Are hospital-grade breast pumps and kits available, if needed?
- Does the hospital work with a newborn photographer or can I hire my own photographer?
Cesarean Birth After Labor
- Will I be asked to consent to cesarean surgery if unable to labor and birth vaginally?
- Which preferences from my birth plan menu will be honored when changing how baby will be born?
- Do you offer a clear drape or a drape with a window if baby is born surgically?
- Can baby be placed skin-to-skin following cesarean birth?
- If baby is admitted into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit will a preference for pumped breastmilk be honored?
Discuss with Your Birth Provider
- Provider’s use of medication to start or assist labor?
- What would cause a provider to strip or sweep membranes?
- Is artificially breaking the bag of water (amniotic sac) helpful with increasing contractions?
- Are cultural traditions for saving the placenta or with other aspects of birth honored?
- Will you ask for my consent before using forceps, vacuum, or episiotomy?
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