Most expectant parents write up a birth plan—a document stating what you want and expect to happen during the pregnancy, labor, and delivery. As an expectant father, the birth plan gives you a role in planning and helps you be explicit about your wishes with each other and with the doctor.
You and your partner may not get every wish on your list if health insurance doesn't cover a service you want or the hospital doesn't provide it. Your doctor or midwife may also have opinions on the risks and benefits of any options you propose. Keep an open mind as you discuss your plan with them.
Many OB/GYNs, midwives, and hospitals offer birth plan forms or templates to help you along. You may also have to fill out additional forms or releases ahead of time for certain options. Here's the sort of information the birth plan should contain:
• Medical problems during pregnancy (diabetes, STDs, anemia, and so on)
• What type of birth you are planning
• Who else (if anyone) you want to be in the room during labor and delivery
• The atmosphere you want to have in the room during labor and delivery
• Whether your partner wants to stand up, lie down, use a shower, or walk around during labor
• Whether you want fetal monitoring
• Your preferences on inducing labor
• What type of pain relief (if any) your partner wants
• The physical position she wants to be in during delivery
• Your feelings about using a forceps or vacuum assistance during delivery
• Your feelings about episiotomy
• Whether you want to cut the umbilical cord, save the cord blood, or donate it
• What happens if you need a C-section
• If your partner wants to breastfeed and when she wants to start
A birth plan can also lay out your wishes for the first hours of your newborn's life, giving the hospital staff important guidance on the following:
• Medical exams or tests
• Using a pacifier
• Giving your baby vitamins
• Your baby's first bath
• Feeding preferences, such as whether to use formula
• Circumcision if you have a boy
If you can't find a template through your doctor or would like another option, check out the birth plan worksheet at assets.babycenter.com/ims/Content/birthplan_pdf.pdf.
Remember that your birth plan is a work in progress. Review it with the doctor and your partner. In addition, consider asking veteran parents about their labor and delivery stories. These points of view can help guide you in planning.
Each birthing experience is different, so don’t expect that your plan on paper will predetermine events in the way that a wedding plan might. The healthiest approach is a flexible approach; don’t be wed to your birth plan.
There's no guarantee that a breech baby won't poke a big hole in your quiet, incense-laden plans for the birth. In the end, the first priority is always the safety and health of the baby and mother.
Adapted from Idiot's Guides: Pregnancy for Dads by Joe Kelly, copyright 2014 Alpha Books and used by permission.