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Birth Plan Checklist

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So much of childbirth is unpredictable. Creating a birth plans affords you control over your experience and communicates your wants and needs to the staff you encounter at the hospital or birthing center. The American Pregnancy Association says this document should be a single page of concise information—although you may feel a second page is necessary—and shouldn't be assembled at the last minute. Start preparing your birth plan two months before your due date.

First Things First: Gather the Facts

Before you start writing your birth plan , compile another document: notes on what you can expect at your birthing center. Tour the center and query the staff about policies during and after a typical birth. Ask about things like how the baby is monitored while you're in labor, pain management options and where the baby will be taken after you've delivered. If you want a specific type of birth, such as a water birth, ask if that option is available. Gathering as much information as possible about the center's typical policies helps you pinpoint things you want done differently.

Push, Push, Push: Plan for Your Comfort

The first part of your birth plan should cover your wishes for labor and birth. Make note of who you want in the room during labor and delivery, including support people—such as a doula or a midwife. The University of Maryland Medical Center offers more considerations to address in your birth plan: positions you want to try during labor, your wishes for pain medication, the atmosphere you want in the delivery room, your feelings about having an episiotomy (surgical cutting of the perineum) and who you want to cut the umbilical cord. Include a section detailing your desires in a emergency situation, such as at what point you'd consider having a cesarean section and who should accompany you to surgery.

Welcome to the World: Plan Baby's First Care

In the flurry of your baby's first moments, your emotions and the confusion of the delivery room may seem overwhelming. Use your birth plan to lay out what you want your baby's first hours and days to look like. Having skin-to-skin contact with your baby right after birth and attempting the first feeding 30 to 60 minutes after birth are ideal for bonding, says the the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. Include your wishes about where the baby should sleep during your stay at the birthing center, how you'll handle visitors and whether you'll want breastfeeding help from staff.

Final Steps: Get the All Clear

Once you and your partner have talked about your dream childbirth, ask your doctor to look over the plan and give her thoughts. Some of your desires might not be medically safe, especially during a complicated pregnancy. Show the plan to any birthing assistant or other people you want present during labor. Many moms also suggest checking over your language to ensure it won't offend any birthing center staff and use language that conveys requests rather than demands. Another tip:t try titling the document "birth preferences." When the plan is completed, place copies in your hospital bag, but continue to review it with your partner over the coming weeks to make sure it's in line with your current desires.

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