How to make a birth plan

Find out what goes in a birth plan, and download our birth plan template to use.

a pregnant woman sitting at a dining table, writing something on a sheet of paper
Photo credit: Sarah Hebenstreit

What is a birth plan?

A birth plan is a document (usually a page or two long) that lets your medical team know your expectations and preferences for labor and delivery, including everything from how you hope to manage labor pain to what kind of atmosphere you want in the birthing room.

Keep in mind when making your birth plan that you can't control every aspect of labor and delivery, and you'll need to be flexible if something comes up that requires your birth team to depart from your plan. (And if you want to depart from your own plan, that's completely fine too.) A healthy mom and baby are the most important parts of the process.

Advertisement | page continues below

Most hospitals and birth centers provide a birth plan template or brochure to explain their policies and philosophy of childbirth, and to let you know what birth options are available to you. That information can be helpful in guiding you and your provider in a discussion about your labor and delivery preferences.

Do I need to have a birth plan?

Birth plans aren't required, but they're nice to have, especially if you have specific desires and want a place to make your wishes clear. Making a birth plan may even help you get more comfortable with and prepared for the childbirth process.

A birth plan can refresh your healthcare provider's memory when you're in labor, and it informs new members of your medical team – such as your labor and delivery nurse – about your preferences when you're otherwise … a little busy having a baby.

If you do make a birth plan, be sure to give a completed copy to your provider well before your due date, and pack another copy in your hospital bag for when you go into labor.

Download BabyCenter's birth plan template

If you haven't already received something to use from your hospital or birthing center, we've created a birth plan template that you can download, print, and fill out.

Download BabyCenter's birth plan template.

The lists below include the choices and alternatives you may wish to highlight on your birth plan; they coincide with what typically happens at the hospital during labor. It's important to note that not all of these options will be available in every setting or make sense for your situation, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy. (And some hospitals have protocols that may not allow for certain birth plan requests, such as intermittent fetal monitoring or lowering the drape during a c-section.)

Advertisement | page continues below

But this will give you a place to start your discussion with your healthcare provider. It can be wise to consider your preferences in all situations, in case you are faced with an unexpected choice.

Birth plan checklist: During labor and delivery

I'd like to have my labor photographed or filmed.

Once you're admitted, the hospital may allow you to invite family and friends to be with you (check with your hospital for their current policies), bring in comfort objects (such as photographs, flowers, or pillows) or food for your support team, play music, dim the lights, and move around as you need to for comfort. If you plan to have the birth photographed or filmed, ask ahead of time what the hospital's policy is. Not all hospitals may allow it.

I'd like intermittent or wireless fetal monitoring.

You may want to ask about the hospital's policy on fetal monitoring. Your baby will likely be monitored externally for 20 or 30 minutes when you're admitted. If your baby's heart rate is reassuring, you might only need to be intermittently monitored after that. Not being tied to a monitor allows you to move around more easily during labor. (And some hospitals have wireless monitors, so patients can walk around while being continuously monitored.)

Advertisement | page continues below

I'd like to move around freely during labor.
If I need an IV, I prefer a saline or heparin lock.

Most hospitals start an IV when you're admitted – sometimes this is medically necessary, like if you're receiving medication to induce or augment labor; sometimes it's a precaution so that you can quickly receive IV fluids if you need them later on in an emergency. To enable your ability to move around freely during labor, you may be able to go without the IV or ask that the medical team attach a heparin or saline lock to an IV catheter. Express your preferences on your birth plan, but discuss what's best with your medical team.

I'd prefer to let my water break naturally.

If your labor stops progressing, your medical team may recommend interventions such as breaking your amniotic sac (if your water hasn't broken) or augmenting your labor with Pitocin.

I'd like to use labor props, such as…

Advertisement | page continues below

There's an array of labor props that moms use in the delivery room, such as a shower, tub, birthing ball, birthing stool, squatting bar, and so on. (You may want to ask your provider what kinds of props you're allowed to bring with you and which ones the hospital can provide.)

Please don't offer me any pain medication. I prefer to use natural pain relief techniques.
I'll decide whether to use pain medication as my labor progresses.
I'd like to be offered an epidural or other pain medication as soon as possible.

Discuss your preferences for pain management with your healthcare provider. If you're trying for an unmedicated birth, you might plan to work with a support team or use various labor props. If you prefer to use pain medication for labor or have an epidural, talk to your ob or midwife about your options ahead of time.

I'd like to be allowed to push when and how I feel I should.
I'd like to be coached on when to push and for how long.

When it's time to push during labor, your medical team can coach you on when and how to bear down. Or you may want to follow your body's natural urges and push when and how you feel is right for you.

Advertisement | page continues below

I'd like to choose the position I deliver in.

You may be able to choose the position you deliver in, such as squatting, semi-sitting, lying on your side, or on your hands and knees.

I'd like to view my baby's birth using a mirror.

I'd like to touch my baby's head as it crowns.

If I have a c-section, I'd like to have the drape lowered so I can view the birth.

Advertisement | page continues below

If you end up having a c-section delivery, it's likely that you'll be awake and your support person will be able stay with you. In rare cases, you'll need general anesthesia, and your partner will be asked to wait outside the operating room. You may want to ask your practitioner if you can view your c-section delivery through a clear plastic drape or have the drape lowered. You may also ask to have your baby placed on your chest afterward.

Birth plan checklist: After labor and delivery

I'd like to hold my baby skin-to-skin immediately after delivery.
I'd like my baby to be dried off before being brought to me.

After a vaginal delivery, the baby is usually placed on you and covered with a warm blanket. You can let your provider know if you prefer to hold your baby skin-to-skin immediately after delivery or if want your baby dried off first.

I'd like to delay clamping and cutting the umbilical cord.

You may want to ask your caregiver about delaying the clamping and cutting of the umiblical cord. Recent research shows that waiting a few minutes allows extra blood to flow from the placenta to the baby and reduces the risk of newborn anemia and iron deficiency. This has now become the standard of care, but may not be possible in all situations.

Advertisement | page continues below

I'd like my partner or attendant to cut the umbilical cord.

The umbilical cord is clamped in two places and cut between the two clamps. Let your provider know if your support person wants to cut the cord.

I plan to donate my baby's cord blood to a public bank.
I plan to store my baby's cord blood in a private bank.
I'm not banking my baby's cord blood.

If you've chosen to bank your baby's cord blood, the blood will be collected at this time. (You'll need to arrange for the process well in advance.)

I'd like to delay newborn procedures such as measuring for the first hour to give me a chance to feed and bond with my baby.

Advertisement | page continues below

Some procedures (such as measuring) can be delayed for an hour to give you a chance to feed and bond with your baby.

I'd like all procedures done and all medications given to my baby to be explained to me beforehand.

Unless your baby needs special medical care, you can usually ask for all procedures and tests to be done while your baby is in the room with you.

I'd like my baby evaluated and bathed in my presence.

If my baby has to be taken from me for medical treatment, I'd like my partner or attendant to go along.

Advertisement | page continues below

If your baby does need to be taken from you for special medical care, your partner or attendant can usually go along.

I plan to exclusively breastfeed my baby while in the hospital or birth center.
I'd like to meet with a lactation consultant for breastfeeding guidance.
I plan to feed my baby formula.

Whether you choose to breastfeed or formula-feed, you can begin whenever you and your baby are ready – the World Health Organization recommends starting breastfeeding right after birth. If you're nursing, let your medical team know if you'd like a lactation consultant to help.

I'd like to be consulted before my baby is offered a bottle or a pacifier.

Consider whether you want your baby to have a pacifier, and let the staff know your preferences.

Advertisement | page continues below

If my baby's a boy, I want him to be circumcised at the hospital.

Most circumcisions in newborns usually take place a day or two after your baby is born.


Follow your baby's amazing development

BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

Bailey JM, et al. 2008. Childbirth education and birth plans. Obstetrics & Gynecology Clinics of North America 35(3):497-509. a new window [Accessed October 2021]

March of Dimes. 2021. Make a birth plan. a new window [Accessed October 2021]

MedlinePlus (ADAM). 2020. What to include in your birth plan? a new window [Accessed October 2021]

Nemours Foundation. 2018. Birth plans. a new window [Accessed October 2021]

U.S. Office on Women's Health. 2018. Labor and birth. a new window [Accessed October 2021]

Amy Cassell
Amy Cassell was a senior editor at BabyCenter, the world's number one digital parenting resource, where she wrote and edited wellness and lifestyle content about pregnancy and parenting. She lives in Seattle with her husband and daughter – and when she's not writing, you’ll likely find her exploring with her family, at a brewery with friends, or on the couch with a book.