Eye on the Prize

Birth Plan Tips

So you're fairly certain that your Facebook-fanatic biggest fan — your baby's daddy — will slide toward the sidelines a few times during the big event for a little "wall-posting." And you're pretty sure that you want to spend some labor time in the warm waters of a Jacuzzi. Or maybe you just know that when your long-awaited baby finally arrives, you plan on being the first person to look into those eyes and say hello.

Although you can carefully list all of those things in a birth plan, it's not necessary, says Swedish Medical Center labor and delivery nurse Abby Sinnett. As long as their plans don't endanger Mom and baby, nurses are going to let parents-to-be design their birthing experience the way they want it, she says.

Here are Sinnett's Top Five Birth Plan Tips:

Take a wide-lens view:

"At Swedish, we ask patients to list their five biggest hopes and their five biggest fears." That opens the communication doors for doctors, midwives and nurses and helps patients stay focused on the big picture.

Think "back-to-school":

"It's kind of like doing your homework." It guides parents in learning about the birthing process. What position does Mom want to be in during labor? Does she want pain medication? Will she breastfeed? All questions worth researching, but certain to be asked anyway.

Adopt a team approach:

"Do I want an episiotomy? Who is going to clamp the cord? Those are answers that should be discussed with the doctor (or midwife) beforehand." And remember, nurses are also on your team and do this every day. Written down or not: "We're not going to give you pain medication if you don't want it."

Bend, don’t break:

"I would say the most common birth plan mistake people make is holding onto it like this is the way it has to happen." A mom herself, Sinnett says parenting demands flexibility, something parents learn before their baby even enters the world.

Keep an eye on the prize:

All of the above will help parents-to-be have a better birth experience, especially if they stay focused on those big-picture goals. "I would hope that the ultimate, No. 1 goal for the whole experience would be for a healthy mom and a healthy baby. In the end, that's what really matters."