A natural birth plan can help you prepare for an unmedicated labor and delivery, and communicate your preferences to your care team, but creating your roadmap might seem a little overwhelming.
There are many steps involved in the labor, birth, and recovery processes. With so many factors to consider, where do you even start? And just as important; is there a certain way your care team will expect your plan to look, so they can easily follow it?
Ultimately there's no right or wrong way to build a birth plan, natural or otherwise. But taking the time to consider your preferences carefully and communicate them clearly can help you stay on the same page as your care team, and hopefully have the birth you've been envisioning.
Here are all the things to keep in mind as you build your natural birth plan along with a natural birth plan example to help you get started.
What Is a Natural Birth Plan?
Before diving into how to make your birth plan, let's first talk about what it means to have a "natural birth." Most people use the term to mean an unmedicated vaginal birth with minimal intervention. (But really, birth is always a natural process - whether it happens vaginally or via C-section, with medication or without.)
A natural birth plan is a plan aimed at helping a woman achieve that goal. It can include your wishes to avoid an epidural and skip interventions where possible (like continuous fetal monitoring or using a vacuum extraction), for instance, as well as information on how you want your baby to be treated after birth.
One important thing to keep in mind: Labor can be unpredictable, so birth plans shouldn't be set in stone. It can help to think of your natural birth plan more as a list of preferences for how you'd like to labor, deliver, and recover and less like a binding contract. In the event that the needs of you or your baby change, you and your healthcare team may decide that your birth plan needs to be adjusted as well.
Making Your Natural Birth Plan
As with any other project, some advanced preparation and research can help you create a birthing plan that meets your needs. Depending on where you are in your pregnancy journey, these steps might include:
1. Finding the Right Healthcare Provider
Working with an OB/GYN or midwife whose holistic approach to care meshes with your own goals is important. Talk with your provider about whether they typically support unmedicated births with minimal interventions, and learn about the scenarios where they feel it may be medically necessary to change course.
Knowing you and your care team are on the same page will help you feel supported in your decision to have a natural birth. It also means you'll have the chance to find another provider if you feel your needs aren't being met.
2. Thinking About Your Reasons for Going Natural
Clarifying why you want a natural birth can help you figure out your birthing preferences. Are you hoping to avoid all medical interventions, for instance, or just give birth without an epidural? Are you hoping to start skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding as soon as possible after giving birth? Do you want your baby's cord blood to be collected after the umbilical cord is cut?
3. Gathering Your Support Team
Talking with your birth partner and/or doula or midwife can help you further clarify your preferences and achieve the birth you want. They can also be invaluable for helping you reach those goals when the time to labor and deliver actually comes, for instance, by distracting you from the pain or helping you breathe through contractions. Having someone to cheer you on can make a big difference.
4. Taking a Childbirth Class
A class will give you and your birth partner a realistic picture of how the journey of labor and delivery typically unfolds. When you have a sense of what to expect, you can start to make more informed decisions about what you want your experience to be like. Classes geared towards unmedicated births are also an opportunity to learn about tools like deep breathing, guided imagery, and movement, which can help you manage your pain.
5. Making Your Natural Birth Plan
Now that you've taken the time to think about your reasons for going natural, the preferences that are most important to you, and how an unmedicated birth can typically unfold, it's time for you and your partner to start making your birth plan. The most effective ones are simple, easy for your care team to read, and presented as a list of flexible preferences for the best-case scenario (as opposed to a set of rigid demands).
6. Discussing the Plan With Your Provider
Share your finished plan with your doctor or midwife. If there are points where you and your provider disagree, learn more about their stance and think about whether you should consider making adjustments.
7. Finalizing Your Plan
Print a few copies of your completed birth plan and tuck them into your hospital bag for the big day. If you've made your plan several weeks (or months) in advance, review it as your due date gets closer to make sure those preferences still work for you.
Things to Consider While Making Your Natural Birth Plan
There's no one-size-fits-all birth plan. What you choose to include or leave out depends on your personal preferences. The main thing to keep in mind is simplicity.
While you want to make sure to address the points that are most important to you, it's important to present your desires in a way that's clear and concise. After all, things are busy in labor and delivery! The easier it is for your care team to read your plan, the better they'll be able to meet your needs, especially if your provider is a large group practice where you may be meeting a doctor, midwife, or nurse for the first time. And if there's something in your plan that's especially important, consider highlighting it so a member of your care team will spot it right away.
So what are some of the things you should consider noting in your plan? This list is a good starting point. (Of course, if you don't have a preference on some of these items, it's fine to leave them out of your plan. Remember, the more brief your plan is, the better.)
General Wishes for a Normal Labor and Delivery
- Do you prefer a natural, unmedicated birth?
- What are your preferences on being induced or having your water broken, if your care team recommends it?
- Do you wish to have the ability to change positions or get out of bed while laboring?
- Do you want to give consent before medication is administered?
- Do you prefer to limit or avoid fetal monitoring?
- Do you prefer to limit cervical exams only to those that are medically necessary?
- Do you prefer to avoid an episiotomy, unless medically necessary?
- Would you prefer to avoid the use of vacuums or forceps, unless medically necessary?
- Will you accept antibiotics during labor if you're group strep B positive?
Preferences for Pain Management
- Do you want to be offered an epidural, or would you prefer to ask for one as needed?
- Would you like access to natural pain-management tools such as a tub or shower, a birthing ball, or massage? (If you'd prefer to have tools like a tub or shower or a birthing ball, check with the hospital ahead of time to see whether these are available.)
The Delivery Room Environment
- Who do you want in the delivery room?
- Do you prefer to keep the room dim and quiet, if possible?
- Would your favorite playlist help comfort you?
Treatment of Your Baby After Delivery
- Do you want your birth partner to cut the baby's cord?
- Do you want your care team to collect your baby's cord blood?
- Do you want your baby placed on your chest immediately after birth?
- Do you wish to breastfeed immediately after birth?
- Would you prefer the baby not be wiped down or bathed?
- Would you like your baby to receive the standard vitamin K shot, eye ointment, and/or PKU testing?
- Would you like your baby to sleep in the hospital room with you or in the nursery?
Preferences in the Event of a C-Section
- Do you want to be awake?
- Do you want your baby to have skin-to-skin contact with your partner after delivery?
- Do you prefer to be reunited with your baby as soon as possible after delivery?
Natural Birth Plan Examples
You've thought through the many different questions and scenarios related to your labor and delivery. But how do you turn these ideas into an actual blueprint for giving birth?
Instead of starting from scratch, try using this natural birth plan template as a starting point. Just circle the preferences that apply to you and fill in the blanks with any additional information you want your care team to know.
My Natural Birth Plan
Hi! My name is ______________________ and my partner's name is __________________. We are hoping to have an unmedicated birth with minimal interventions. Our preferences include:
- No pain medication
- Ability to move freely
- Ability to use hydrotherapy, if possible
- Natural water breaking/no induction
- Intermittent fetal monitoring
- Cervical exams only when necessary
- No episiotomy
- Dim lights
- Immediate skin-to-skin contact
- Breastfeeding right away
- Delayed cord clamping
- Partner cuts cord
- Cord blood collected
- No bath or wipe for baby
- Baby stays in room with me
In Case of a C-Section
- Prefer to be awake
- Immediate partner skin-to-skin
- Reunited with baby ASAP
More Tips for Making Your Natural Birth Plan
There's no denying the fact that unmedicated births can be challenging. (But you know that, and you're up for it!) As you put together your birth plan and prepare for labor and delivery, keep this advice in mind.
1. Take Time to Mentally Prepare
Intense pain is a normal part of an unmedicated birth, but it can still be difficult to tolerate. Visualizing the experience ahead of time (and keeping your eye on the prize - your beautiful baby!) may make it easier to manage the discomfort when the time comes.
Talk through the process with your birth partner or support person too. If there's a chance you might change your mind about wanting an epidural if the pain gets to be too much, discuss what that might look like and how you want to balance the preferences in your birth plan with your needs in the moment. For instance, do you want the change of course to be honored right away, with no questions asked? Or would you want your birth partner or support person to remind you of your intention to have an unmedicated birth?
2. Learn About Natural Pain Management Techniques
Come to the hospital prepared with strategies for managing your discomfort. Practices like guided imagery, hypnobirthing, hydrotherapy (water therapy), touch or massage therapy, breathing exercises, and even moving around or changing positions can all be effective options for working through the pain. You and your partner can learn many of these techniques in your childbirth class and practice them together in the weeks leading up to your baby's arrival.
3. Be Flexible
Creating a natural birth plan can help you clarify your preferences and set the stage for having the birth you envision. Just remember that birth plans can change. Labor and delivery can bring about unexpected challenges. Being able to adjust your plan as needed can help ensure that you and your baby stay healthy and safe. Because ultimately, that's what matters the most.
The Bottom Line on Natural Birth Plans
Having a natural birth plan can help you prepare for an unmedicated birth and clearly communicate your wishes to your care team. You can be specific about your preferences, just remember to be open to the fact that things can take an unexpected turn. When that happens, the best thing you can do is be willing to adapt.