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Whatís Your Birth Plan?

Photo of pregnant womanIf you are expecting a baby, you probably have ideas about how you would like the labor and delivery to go. To help make sure your ideas become a reality, work with your doctor and birthing facility to write a birth plan.

Youíve picked your childís name, decorated the nursery, and bought enough diapers to last the first few weeks. But have you made a plan for the birth?

From home births and water births to more traditional hospital deliveries, there are many options available to women today. A birth plan lets your doctor, midwife, or doula know exactly what you want your birthing experience to be like. It can also outline how you want your baby to be cared for immediately after you give birth. You can be as detailed as you likeóitís entirely up to you.

Talk with your doctor about your options. There are also websites that give you a checklist of items to consider when making your plan. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make the first day you spend with your child go as smoothly as possible.

Location, Location, Location

Thereís a lot to decide on for your birth plan, so donít put it off until the last minute. A good place to start might be to decide where you want to deliver your baby. A hospital or birthing center is the most common choice, but home births have become more mainstream in recent years.

If you decide on a hospital birth, itís a good idea to visit the facility a few weeks beforehand. This way, youíll know the best route to get there, where to go for check-in, even where you can park your car. Some hospitals will let you register ahead of your visit so that your insurance information is already on file.

Talk with your doctor and the hospital staff about their policies and procedures. They may already have a set routine in place. Many hospitals and birthing centers can give you a brochure or pamphlet with this information. Use that as a launching point for your own birth plan.

Deciding on the Details

Once youíve picked a location to give birth, itís time to get into specifics. Your hospital can give you a list of things to consider. Keep your plan short and to the point. One page is usually long enough. Here are just a few of the things you may want to include:

  • Birth partner/labor coach: Let your doctor know if you want your partner or any friends or family members to be with you in the room while youíre giving birth. Some hospitals may be able to provide a professional labor coach to help you as well.
  • Music and lights: If youíve got a favorite band or an album that helps you relax, add music to your birth plan. Most places will let you pick the soundtrack for your delivery. You can also ask the staff to dim the lights to help put you at ease.
  • Episiotomy: An episiotomy is a small surgical cut to enlarge the vaginal opening. It is not common practice. There are, however, situations when it may be helpful in delivery, so talk with your doctor about your personal wishes.
  • Birthing tub: You may find it helpful to labor, or even give birth, in a tub of warm water. Floating in warm water can be soothing and may help lower blood pressure, ease stress, and make it easier to shift positions.
  • Pain medication: Some women opt for a completely natural, unmedicated birth. Others choose an epidural to control pain. Itís important to decide ahead of time which you prefer.
  • Postpartum care: You can ask that some procedures, such as bathing or measuring, be delayed while you bond with your baby after giving birth. You can also choose to have your baby stay in your room with you at night rather than going to a nursery.

Expect the Unexpected

Millions of perfectly healthy babies are born each year in the U.S. and around the world. But there is always the chance that something unexpected could happen. When putting together your plan, leave some room for flexibility. If youíve decided to have your baby at home, plan a way to get to the hospital if thereís a situation that canít be handled by your birth team. If you want a natural childbirth, talk with your doctor about the possibility of an emergency cesarean section.

Remember: A birth plan is designed to give you confidence that your wishes will be respected and to put you in control even when you may be feeling overwhelmed by everything thatís going on around you. Together with your doctor, you can plan for a birth experience youíll remember for the rest of your life.

By Brett Bakshis, guest contributor for Vitality. For more information, visit www.americanpregnancy.org and search for ďbirth plan.Ē

PREPARING FOR A HEALTHY PREGNANCY

Planning for a healthy baby begins long before you actually get pregnant. When you are ready to have a baby, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Talk with your doctor. Discuss your health history and how to control any health conditions you might have that could impact a pregnancy. Your doctor will review any previous pregnancy difficulties you might have experienced, medicines you are taking, and vaccinations you should get.
  • Boost your folic acid intake. Itís important to take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily at least one month before and throughout your pregnancy. This B vitamin can help prevent major brain and spine birth defects.
  • Quit smoking and drinking. Cigarettes and alcohol, as well as drugs, can cause difficulties for you and your baby, including premature birth, birth defects, and infant death.
  • Steer clear of harmful chemicals. Substances such as synthetic chemicals, metals, fertilizer, bug spray, and cat or rodent feces can hurt male and female reproductive systems. This can make it harder to conceive and can cause health problems for children.
  • Manage your weight. Overweight or obese women have a higher risk for serious medical conditions, including pregnancy complications. Being underweight can also increase your health risks.
  • Know your family tree. For example, if you have a relative with a heart defect or sickle-cell disease, tell your doctor. You might be referred for genetic counseling.
  • Ease your mind. Talk with your doctor and discuss mental health treatment options if you persistently feel worried, anxious, sad, or stressed.

By Bruce E. Beans, a feature writer for Vitality.

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