Congratulations, you’re pregnant! You might be wondering what happens next. There’s all this talk in the maternal health space about needing to create a birth plan. But what is it exactly and why do you need it? 

What Is a Birth Plan?

A birth plan is essential because it creates a straightforward, easy process that empowers a mom-to-be during birth. It also allows you to connect with your doctor and get on the same page about the birth experience you want. 

According to certified breastfeeding specialist, Jasmine Creighton, a birth plan is a wonderful resource that supports a baby’s birth. She described it as a physical wish list for your care team with your labor and delivery preferences. 

“Giving birth is personal and having a plan ensures that your voice is heard and that the care team is clear about your wishes and desires for your labor and delivery,” Creighton said. “More importantly, you remain included in the decision making around you and your baby.”

Crystal D. Charley, founder and executive director at Melanin and Maternal Wellness, emphasized the importance of birth plans for the safety of Black mothers.

“It helps ensure that their wishes and needs are taken into consideration during the birthing process,” she said. “Your birth plan allows you and your support team to curate the beautiful and joyful birthing experience Black mothers deserve!”

Birth Plan Specifics 

A birth plan should be unique for each individual and have things that are really important to mom and baby. Expecting moms and birthing people should create a birth plan around 36 weeks or so and have it available to share with their care team. 

Creighton explained that you’ll definitely want to make sure that it is easy to read and not too lengthy. Keep it down to one to two pages. 

Some essential information to include in your birth plan are: your name, your partner’s name and contact information, your doula’s name (if applicable), the name of your OBGYN/midwife, and your pediatrician’s name. You’ll also want to include your requests before labor, your labor wishes, and your preferences for environment, monitoring and mobility, pain management, second stage labor, delivery and third stage labor. Lastly, give details about your desired baby care plan and any special needs for you or your baby.

Once you create your birth plan, review it with your OB/GYN or midwife in advance of your due date. Your birth plan may differ slightly based on where you are giving birth (a hospital versus home versus a birth center).

“Remember: A birth plan is a plan of action,” she explained. “No guarantee can be given that it will be explicitly followed, as you and your baby’s health and safety are a priority.” 

Resources for Creating a Plan

To get started, Creighton recommended that a mom or birthing person-to-be consider a doula. A doula is a trained professional who provides emotional, physical, and informational support before, during, and after delivery. 

“They are a wonderful addition to your care team and can even support you in creating a birth plan,” she explained. 

Alternatively, there are many free birth plan templates and generators available online that can assist you in creating one. Creighton recommended checking out resources such as Frontline Doulas and Sankofa Birthworkers Collective. Other resources include The National Black Doulas Association, the IRTH app, and Poppy Seed Health.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

In order to create an informed plan, you’ll want to be sure that you and your care team are united. 

“It is prudent for Black expectant mothers to essentially interview their potential provider. Even if it is your existing provider who has already rendered gynecological care,” Charley said. “This will ensure that you are all on the same page for your birthing journey and care.” 

Examples of questions to ask your doctor include: 

  • How can I best prepare for childbirth? 
  • What can I expect before, during, and after delivery? 
  • What are the different birthing options available to me?
  • Do you support natural childbirth? 
  • Will you be available during my whole labor? 
  • What are your thoughts on episiotomy? 
  • What back-up plans or options are available?
  • How do you handle pain management during labor?
  • How do you handle emergencies or complications during labor and delivery?
  • What interventions or procedures do you typically recommend and under what circumstances? How will interventions affect my birthing outcomes?
  • What are the hospital or birthing center policies regarding support people during labor?
  • What are the policies regarding immediate postpartum care and newborn procedures?
  • Are there any cultural or religious considerations that should be discussed? 

“Asking these questions will help expecting parents better understand their options,” she added. “They will also be empowered to make informed decisions that align with their preferences and values, even if that means seeking out a different provider.” 

Benefits of a Birth Plan

One of the greatest benefits of a birth plan is ensuring that the care team has clear expectations of the mom/birthing person’s wishes and provides them with informed decision-making. Creighton added that birth plans also help to lower the use of epidurals, minimize non-emergency medical interventions, improve communication between the care team and mom/birthing person, and boost maternal and neonatal outcomes and childbirth satisfaction.

Charley highlighted the positive outcome of moms feeling more satisfied with their overall birth experience.

“Mothers who used birth plans felt empowered and felt agency to carry out their desires with a leading role in their birth space,” she said.