Labor and Delivery - Planning for Birth
Consider a birth plan
your prenatal visits, talk with your doctor about your labor and
delivery options. You may want to write them
down as a birth plan. It's an ideal
picture of what you would like to happen.
But try to be flexible. No labor and delivery can be
predicted or planned. So give yourself permission to change your mind at any
time. And be prepared for your childbirth to be different from what you
planned. If an emergency arises, your doctor has a
responsibility to ensure both your safety and your baby's safety. You may still
be allowed to share in some decisions, but your choices may be limited.
What to put in a birth plan
When you are writing your birth plan, think about:
- Who will deliver your baby.
- Where you want to have your baby. Most women
choose to work with a doctor and have their baby delivered in a hospital.
Women at low risk for problems may choose to work with
a midwife or have their baby at a birth center.
- Who you want to be
with you. You may want to have family and friends around you or only the baby's
other parent or another support person, such as a doula.
- Comfort measures you
want to try. Breathing techniques, laboring in water, trying different
positions, and having one-on-one support may help you manage pain.
- Your preferences for medical treatments. Consider what type of
pain medicine you would prefer, even if you don't think you'll need it. Just keep in
mind that you may not always get to choose.
- How your baby will be
cared for after delivery. This might include having your baby stay in the room
with you rather than going to the nursery, delaying some tests and procedures,
and getting help with starting to breast-feed.
This is also a good time to decide whether you'll attend (if you haven't
childbirth education class, starting in your 6th or
7th month of pregnancy.
To help you get started on writing a birth plan, fill out the My Birth Plan form(What is a PDF document?). Take it to your next appointment to discuss your wishes with your doctor or midwife.
What to expect at the hospital
You may feel more calm and prepared for labor if you know what is likely to happen when you get to the hospital.
Most hospitals and birthing centers have birthing rooms
where women can labor, deliver, and recover. Providing that you have an
uncomplicated birth, you can probably be in the same birthing room for your
entire stay. If your delivery becomes complicated, you can be quickly moved to
a delivery room equipped to handle the problem.
If you arrive at the hospital or
birthing center in early labor that is progressing quickly, you can expect some or all of the following:
- Your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature will be
- You will be asked about the timing and strength of your
contractions and whether your membranes have ruptured.
- Electronic fetal heart monitoring will be used to record the fetal heart rate as you have contractions. Fetal heart rate shows whether the
baby is doing well or is in trouble.
- You will have
sterile vaginal exams to check whether your cervix is
thinning and opening (effacing and dilating).
- You may have an
intravenous (IV) needle inserted, in case you need
extra fluids or medicine later on.
- You may be encouraged to walk. Walking helps many women
feel more comfortable during early labor.