Have you been able to hear your little one’s heart pumping away yet? If not, expect to at the next appointment with your midwife or OB/Gyn.
Not to mention, your baby is also practicing making facial expressions. Though the smiling, frowning and furrowed brows are completely random and not expressions of emotions yet, soon enough those little expressions will be reactions to your kisses, hugs and snuggles.
And… if you feel any feelings like butterfly wings in your belly - those are likely the first sensations of your baby kicking. Sometimes moms describe those first movements like tapping, bubbles popping, tiny spasms or flickering. If you haven’t felt it yet, be on the lookout, you will soon.
Now, at 16 weeks, other than looking for those first movements, what else should you be thinking about?
A birth plan! It may seem early, but getting ready for birth does take time, and the sooner you start understanding your options and making choices about what you want, the sooner you can start lining up the puzzle pieces to make your choices work.
Don’t worry, though it might feel like a big process to make a birth plan, I’ll show you how to make it really simple at the end of the article.
What is a Birth Plan?
A birth plan is a simple one page summary of what you would like your birth to be like. I know when I was pregnant the first time, I thought all births were pretty much the same. I was surprised to learn how many options I had and how many choices I had to make - or would be made for me if I didn’t make them. A birth plan simply states what you as an individual desire for your birth.
What Does A Birth Plan Do For You?
Many people believe that a birth plan is simply a document that you bring with you when you go into labor. And yes, it is great for that.
But, a birth plan is useful far before your due date. Creating a plan early on helps you understand your options and make educated decisions about your care during pregnancy and birth. It also helps you develop stronger and more trusting relationships with your care providers, as they can get to know you as an individual much better than they can a person who doesn’t really know what they want.
Of course, sometimes plans have to change. But it’s always easier to get where you are going if you know what the desired destination is from the beginning.
What Should I Include On A Birth Plan?
A birth plan should cover a few basic questions.
Introduce Yourself.Theres nothing worse than being interrupted during contractions for basic questions such as your name, birth date, or the name of your partner. Take a moment to introduce yourself. If you have a feeling or desire for your birth, sum it up in a simple sentence or two. This may look like saying ‘I am really intimidated by pain, please get my an epidural as soon as possible!” or it may look like “I am wanting as few interventions as possible. I’m trying to go drug free, please help me with this goal! Thank you!”
You can also share any fear here, such as fears of needles, any allergies to medications or other unique aspects or needs you have that may set you apart.
What do you want for pain management while you are dilating?Take a moment to sum up what’s important to you while you are dilating. Do you want to have the freedom to move around as much as possible? Intermittent or continuous monitoring? An epidural as soon as possible or use it only as a last resort? Is there anything important to you about music? Lights? Do you have dreams of having a water birth or using the bath as your labor? The freedom to eat when and what you please? These are all little details that you can put on your birth plan. When you talk about these options with your doctor, you will get a good sense of which preferences are likely to be honored and if and when they would no longer be options for you.
If you’re already feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath. There is a great tool to help you plan out the details at the end.
Do you have any preference about pushing?Surprisingly, you have a lot of options when it comes to pushing. Some women want to stay off their back. Others want a lot of verbal guidance, others want no counting. I’ve even had dads request to be the one to catch the baby. Make sure to ask about how hands-on your care provider is during the pushing stage. Some doctors will spend quite a bit of time with their fingers inside you while you push so they can feel exactly how much baby is moving, while others will remain completely hands off. Make sure that if you have preferences about this, you talk about it extensively before. It’s your body, and you have a big say in this.
What do you want the first hour after birth?The first hour after birth is called the golden hour. Ideally, you and baby shouldn’t be separated assuming everyone is healthy. Do you want skin to skin time, are you okay with baby being taken to a heater early on? Will they wait at least an hour to do any newborn shots? Which shots do you want or not want? Are you doing anything with the placenta? Having these questions answered in advance or easily referenced will give you freedom to bond with your baby and not be answering tons of questions when you are first meeting each other.
What is important to you about newborn care?This is a great place to note if you are bottle feeding or breastfeeding. And if there is anything unique you want help with when taking care of your baby. If you need help with anything post baby, this is a great place to ask. Can you show me how to swaddle? Do you want oil on baby’s butt to make the first poop easier to get off? Do you need help learning how to change a diaper? If so, just note it here so you don’t forget to ask and your nurse remembers to help!
Should You Have A Birth Plan If You Are Planning A C-section?
A scheduled c-section is usually a pretty straightforward surgery. But, do you need a birth plan? You can absolutely make one if you want. When you give birth by surgery, you still have a few options.
You may be able to make a few simple requests, such as having your baby brought to you immediately after birth, asking for support with breastfeeding and potentially having a clear drape so you can see your baby as soon as they are born.
You will also want to let your team know what care you want for your baby. Depending on the reasons for having a scheduled c-section, you may want to discuss what options are available to you and your baby before, during and after surgery.
What About An Emergency C-Section If Labor Doesn’t Go According To Plan
Sometimes birth doesn’t go the way we want. Emergency c-sections can happen. If you feel passionate about having a clear drape maybe note that on your original birth plan. In my experience, if you have any desires written out for skin to skin postpartum or help with breastfeeding, those wishes will be honored after the surgery if possible. A simple phrase or two on your birth plan can sum up that you still want as much of your plan as possible, especially after delivery, if you have to have a c-section.
How Do I Write A Birth Plan?
Once you know what you want, a birth plan can be summed up pretty quickly in one page. I know it seems like there are a lot of options, but midwives, doctors and nurses have worked with thousands of moms. If you sum up what you want, they will know what it means.
And don’t worry, if you feel overwhelmed with all of these options, I’ve got you covered. I made you a simple 5 day challenge called Make A Birth Plan That Works. Inside you will find done for you and editable birth plan templates plus tips on making birth plans of all kinds work.
It also teaches you the most common reasons birth plans go sideways and how to make sure that your team is supportive of your plan.
Are you ready to get your birth plan checked off your list? Let’s do it together. Join the challenge today!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suzzie Vehrs is a mama of two vibrant and growing kids. As a certified doula she loves helping moms know how to prepare for birth and create beautiful beginnings. Her goal is to help moms dream about, align with and experience a healthy, happy birth.