A birth plan is a written document that describes your birthing preferences and wishes. Writing a birth plan helps you consider your options ahead of time and communicate your wishes to your health care providers. It also helps you feel more prepared for the birth.

There's no "official" way to write a birth plan – just put your name, your doctor's name, and your expected due date on a piece of paper, along with a list of your preferences for how you would like the birth to be handled.

Options to consider when writing your birth plan:

  • Who would you like to have with you during labour and birth (e.g., partner, your other children)?
  • Would you like to have the birth recorded (e.g., with a video camera or still camera)?
  • Would you like to wear your own clothes during labour?
  • Would you like to try a birthing tub, stool, chair, or squatting bar? If so, will your birthing location have them or will you need to bring them?
  • What positions would you like to try for labour? (e.g., semi-reclining, hands and knees, squatting)
  • What pain control options would you prefer? (e.g., epidural, acupressure, breathing techniques, hypnosis, massage, hot or cold therapy)
  • How would you like your partner to participate? (e.g., view the birth, be present during a C-section, or cut the umbilical cord?
  • Do you want to bring any personal touches (such as music or pictures) into your birthing area?
  • How do you feel about the use of medical interventions such as inducing labour, augmentation of labour (medications to speed up labour), episiotomies, forceps or vacuum extractors, cesarean sections, external fetal monitoring, and intravenous fluids?
  • Would you prefer to keep the number of vaginal exams to a minimum?
  • Would you like the option to walk and move around during labour?
  • Would you like to eat and drink during labour?
  • Would you like to view the birth using a mirror?
  • Are you planning to donate the umbilical cord blood? (If so, this should be arranged well before the birth to ensure you have enough time to register and pick up your collection kit. Don't forget to bring your collection kit to the birth.)
  • Do you plan to breast-feed, formula-feed, or use a combination of breast-feeding and formula feeding?
  • Do you have any religious or cultural needs or preferences that should be considered by your health care providers?
  • Do you have a disability? If so, is there any specific help or equipment you will need to assist you in labour?

Share your birth plan with your doctor and bring a copy in your birth bag.

Keep in mind that a birth plan is not a guarantee. Your health care providers will try to follow your birth plan, but things may need to happen differently in order to keep you and your baby safe. And in the end, that's what matters most! So keep an open mind and don't feel badly if things don't go according to your birth plan.