Most guys have a similar response when the topic of a birth plan is brought up. That response is usually “Your partner just goes in to labour and you take her to the hospital, right?” Unfortunately, you need to put in a little more planning than that. There are a multitude of different decisions that need to be made during the course of labour and everyone has their own personal preferences. For example, some people don’t want to take any pain medication during the labour, others want to take all of the pain relief as soon as it is available so that they do not feel a thing. There are generally no right or wrong birth plans, they are dependent almost entirely on the preferences of your partner and the type of birth experience she would ideally like. The birth plan is normally broken down in to three main areas.

Pre-Birth Decisions

Labour is actually a lot of waiting around, often for several hours, before you actually get to the main show which is closer to the mental image that you have of what labour is going to be like. As such, there is a lot of early birth plan decisions that need to be made. For example, do you want to set the mood with candles and soft music? Do you want to bring the iPad and make sure that you have downloaded enough shows to keep you busy until active labour begins? Who will be allowed in the delivery room? Will it just be the two of you? How about parents? Other children? The Doula? Anyone else? Does your partner want to spend the entire time waiting in bed, or does she want to be able to walk around or bounce on a birthing ball in the early stages of labour? Perhaps she wants to have a shower or sit in the bathtub. Also, is she going to eat the hospital food, are you bringing food from outside? How much should you bring if it’s a longer than average labour? This is why a plan is important. Labour goes more smoothly when the mother to be is relaxed and comfortable and most sterile hospital rooms are far from that.

Labour and Birth Decisions

Once active labour does begin, there are a number of other items that need to be planned for and some of this require prior consultation and discussion with the doctor. The first decision to be made for the birth plan is usually regarding type of delivery. If your partner wants a natural birth and your doctor is a fan of just getting a C-section done so the whole thing can be over quickly, its important to ensure the birth plan states that a C-section is a last resort and only if medically required. Likewise, there are certain countries where C-section is the preferred method of delivery. The other key decision for the plan is usually around pain medication. There is a section of the internet that seems to glorify not taking any medication whatsoever, but everyone’s pain and endurance threshold is different. Some will want to take an epidural as soon as possible; others would only do it if they absolutely cannot take any more pain. Others would like some alternative pain medication. Then there are decisions around monitoring of the baby, as the varying types either allow more or less movement during labour. Then decisions also need to be made around things like the use of an IV, catheter and her position on an episiotomy or if she wants to pursue natural tearing. Not to mention items like interventions with items such a forceps or a vacuum extraction to assist in the birth. Are you understanding why a birth plan is needed yet?

New-born care decisions

The final set of decisions for the birth plan revolve around what to do when the baby arrives. For example, does your partner want the baby to be taken away immediately for the various checks, or is skin to skin contact first more important? Would your partner like to try and breastfeed immediately? Do you want to be the one to cut the umbilical cord? Do you want to delay cord clamping so that more of the blood from the cord is pumped into the baby? Do you want the placenta saved? Have you considered cord blood banking? There is a lot to plan for.