May 31, 2024

Be ready to be flexible — pregnancy is dynamic — but build a birth plan so your provider and support group know your desires for the big day.

Whether it’s your first time or your fourth, giving birth can feel joyful, yet overwhelming. And though you can’t control every outcome, you can minimize stress by preparing a birth plan that addresses many important decisions before the baby comes.

What is a birth plan? The term refers to any preferences or special requests related to labor, birth and immediate postpartum care. Consider this birth plan checklist as you prepare to welcome your baby.

Choose your obstetric care team.

Be sure to know your options so you can choose the right team for the type of delivery you want and are medically cleared to have. For example, the labor and delivery team at Vanderbilt Health includes midwives and obstetricians; you’ll also need to choose a pediatrician for baby. Many pediatric providers offer a special prenatal visit to see the office and learn about the providers and staff.

Visit the hospital.

Make sure you know how to get to the hospital (or birth center), where to park and where to check in. You can also take a virtual tour online to see what the delivery and postpartum units look like and ask any questions you may have in person. Vanderbilt Health also offers optional childbirth and breastfeeding classes as well as a breastfeeding support group.

Decide on your support group.

Want a doula? Will grandmas be invited? Plan ahead who will be in the delivery room to avoid dealing with hurt feelings in the moment and to receive the support you need without feeling too crowded. “It’s often helpful for the care team to be able to call people by name and know who’s invited to the birth,” said Bethany D. Sanders, a certified nurse midwife who provides care at Vanderbilt Midwives Melrose, Vanderbilt Midwives Mt. Juliet and Vanderbilt Primary Care Mt. Juliet.

Plan for pain management.

The choice on what to use for pain management may change in the moment, but it’s wise to think about your wishes in advance and discuss them with your provider, partner and whoever will be on hand for the birth. As a birth plan example, you could specify that you plan to use relaxation techniques like breathing, music and massage and that if you need pain medicine, you’d like to start with nitrous oxide. Many moms-to-be plan to use epidural anesthesia for their pain management during active labor.

“It’s always good to have a plan and know what you prefer, but hold it loosely,” said Dr. Jody L. Stonehocker, an obstetrician at Vanderbilt Center for Women’s Health. “At the end of the day, you don’t want to feel like you somehow failed. Be open to changing your preferences as the birth story unfolds.”

Create a contingency plan.

If an induction or cesarean section becomes necessary, what can give you a positive experience? For some women that means skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible and a visit from a lactation consultant the first day.

Organize for special requests.

Do you want equipment such as a birth ball? Do you want a mirror to watch the birth? Does your partner want to help receive the baby or be the one to announce the gender or name if it’s a surprise?

Think ahead and write down what you would like in your birth plan.

Arrange for pets or children.

Talk with friends, family or neighbors who may help care for pets and your other children while you are in the hospital.

Pack your hospital bag — and install a car seat for baby!

To bring your baby home with you after delivery, you’ll need to install an infant car seat. You can get your car seat checked by a certified car seat safety technician. A local police or fire department may be able to do this for you. You’ll also need a bassinet or crib for your baby so you can practice safe sleep guidelines at home.

We recommend packing your hospital bag before the due date so you can easily grab it on the way to the hospital.

Suggestions for what should be packed for mom:

  • Insurance card
  • Bathrobe
  • Socks
  • Change of clothes, including a going-home outfit (maternity clothes are best)
  • Nursing bra, nursing pads and maternity underwear
  • Peri-pads (“overnight” maxi pads or adult diapers work best)
  • Toiletries
  • Entertainment options
  • Snacks

Suggestions to pack for the baby:

  • Undershirt or onesie (in newborn and 0-3 month sizes)
  • Going-home outfit
  • Socks or booties
  • Hat
  • Swaddling blanket
  • Diapers and wipes

Think about feeding.

While breastfeeding has numerous benefits, both baby and mom have to be willing. Lactation consultants available in the hospital can help maximize your chances for successful breastfeeding. Either way, research options before your due date so you and your medical team know your preference when the time’s right.

It’s not a bad idea to bring a written copy of your birth plan to a prenatal visit in the last month of pregnancy. A copy can easily be put in your chart, but don’t forget to bring an extra in your birth bag just in case. Happy birthing!

Expert care for you and your baby

Each pregnancy and delivery is unique and yours should be too. Learn more about how Vanderbilt Health’s obstetrics and maternal fetal medicine teams bring together nationally ranked expertise and personalized care from your first prenatal visit to delivery and beyond.

To learn more, call 615-343-5700 or schedule an appointment online.

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