How do I get started?
The first step is to make a Birth Plan. While you may not have answers for everything right away, it provides some structure to plan around. A thoughtfully prepared Birth Plan, along with other documents, can instruct your healthcare providers and family members about your preferences. Starting with templates provided by Rocket Lawyer can help you in the planning process.
What do I need to think about ahead of time?
When you know a due date, induction date, or cesarean section schedule, more detailed planning can begin. The more decisions you can make ahead of time, the easier it may be down the road. Some issues to consider include:
Type of birth
Do you want a natural birth? If you might have complications, your doctor could recommend a c-section. It can help to ask questions early in the process if you are unsure about your options.
Are you attending childbirth classes? Do you want your birth partner to attend classes with you? Lamaze and other in-person and remote classes are available. They can prepare you and your birth partner for what is to come.
Place of birth
Where do you want to have your baby? A home birth may be an option for some, but a birth center or hospital might be better for others. It can help to speak with your healthcare providers about what is right for you.
Think about what you want to do regarding pain relief during the labor process. If you want to use a birthing ball, for example, make plans to have one available. Let your healthcare team know in advance whether you want an epidural, and they can advise you about other options for pain medication as well.
Generally, your OB-GYN and their support team will be present in the delivery room if you choose a hospital. Your birth partner, coach, or doula may also be present. Beyond that, you may want specific family members or friends to attend, however, who is allowed in the delivery room is often restricted in hospital settings. Knowing who you want in the room can help you, and them, be prepared on the big day.
How do I set priorities?
One way to set your priorities is to list and separate your preferences into essentials and luxuries. Essentials are the nonnegotiable items that ensure the comfort, health and safety of everyone, while luxuries are items that would make the experience better, but may not be as necessary.
No matter how thoroughly you plan the birth process, unforeseen circumstances can arise. Your OB-GYN or doula can review possible complications and your options based on your choices. This can be especially helpful if, in an emergency situation, you lose consciousness during delivery. Would you agree to an emergency c-section? If you opt for a home birth, what do you need to do to get your home ready and minimize risk? In the event of complications, can you get to a hospital quickly?
Part of your plan can include what happens immediately after as well. You may want to think about and plan for your postpartum preferences. For example, do you want immediate skin-to-skin contact with your baby? Do you want cord clamping to occur immediately or after a bit? Do you want a vitamin k injection for your baby after birth? Do you plan on breastfeeding or bottle feeding?
How do I keep track of all my preferences?
Your Birth Plan is the playbook for you, your partner, and your healthcare providers. It outlines what you do and do not want.
The plan can include your preferences for all of the above issues, but that is not an exhaustive list. If you have other ideas, write them into your Birth Plan. You and everyone else will be too busy and distracted when the big day arrives. You do not want to have to make these decisions while you are in labor, or immediately after.
Do I give my healthcare provider a copy of my plan?
Yes. A Birth Plan is not a legally binding document. It is more of an instructional statement of what you want to happen during the birth process. Your doctor and health care provider has legal and ethical obligations to protect your health and the health of your baby, which can mean not following your plan when necessary. It also means that you are not bound by your plan either. If you want to make a change at the last minute, you can.
Most doctors will review your Birth Plan as a reference to help them provide the best care, and discuss what they can or cannot do. You can change your mind about your preferences at any time before the birth. You can even change your mind about many issues in the middle of the birth process. Your Birth Plan does not bind anyone to the decisions in that plan.
Beyond your Birth Plan, there are some legal documents that will be binding on the healthcare provider that may be helpful:
- A Hospital Visitation Authorization ensures that certain people, particularly those not directly related to you, can visit you in the hospital.
- The Medical Power of Attorney gives legal authority to another person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. If, for example, you need to go under general anesthesia for surgery, a Medical Power of Attorney will ensure that a trusted person can communicate with the doctor and make decisions on your behalf.
- A Medical Records Transfer Form allows a healthcare provider to share medical records with your designee, like a doula.
How do I get ready for the big day?
It can help to review your Birth Plan with all of those involved. Each person can have a copy of the plan or the portion of the plan that involves them, so everyone knows what to expect.
As the due date approaches:
- Review your instructions and plan for the big day.
- Practice the route to the hospital.
- Know where to go or park in an emergency or non-emergency.
- Pack a bag.
To learn more about your rights and options before, during, and after the birth of a new baby, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.