How to Write Your Birth Preferences

Having birth preferences for your big day is as important as packing your bag for the hospital. It ensures that you know what you want for your birth and helps your provider prepare for your birth, as well.

You may have heard of a birth plan, but birth preferences allows for adaptability. Having preferences instead of a plan will help you process more quickly if your birth goes in an unexpected direction on your big day. This article offers considerations for your birth experience and explains how to write your birth preferences.

There are several factors to consider when writing your birth preferences: your labor, your delivery, your baby, and what to do in the event of a c-section.

Your Labor

Most moms would agree that labor is the longest, most mentally exhausting part of your birth experience. It can range anywhere from 3 hours to 50+ hours. Both instances have their benefits and detriments. In any event, it’s a good idea to know a little bit about what you’re getting into.

Did you know that you have options when it comes to your labor experience? It’s important to know them and decide what your preferences are.

• Do you want to labor at home or go to the hospital right away?
• How do you feel about being induced? You can say no to inductions and all other interventions.
• Do you want to be restricted to the hospital bed? Or do you want to move around?
• What kind of atmosphere would you prefer? Dimly lit room? Background music? Essential oils? Are guests okay? 
• Do you plan to eat and drink while in labor?
• What about monitoring? Do you prefer no monitoring, or are you okay with intermittent or continuous monitoring?
• Do you prefer limited cervical exams?
• What kind of pain management are you okay with? Epidural? Spinal? None?
• What do you want to wear while in labor?

Your Delivery

Ah, you’re at 10cm and it’s time to push! You have more options than you may realize when it comes to delivering your baby.

• What would you like your birthing position to be (or not be)?
• Do you prefer to be told how to push? Or feel for your body’s cues for pushing?
• How do you feel about episiotomies?
• Do you prefer to be able to feel your baby’s head while your pushing?
• Would you like immediate skin-to-skin? What about the other parent?
• Is baby keeping her vernix, or do you prefer for her to be wiped off?
• How quickly would you like her cord clamped, if at all?
• How would you like your placenta to be delivered?

Your Baby

Directly after baby is born and before you leave the hospital, there are several common procedures performed by hospital staff. You can opt in or out of all of them. It’s your baby – you get to decide! If you don’t say your preference, the doctors will do what is standard hospital protocol.

• Are you breastfeeding? Would you like immediate breast contact after birth? Do you prefer for your baby to receive formula or no formula?
• How about a pacifier?
• Would you prefer to keep your baby by you at all times?
• Is your baby receiving eye ointment? Vitamin K? If so, do you prefer to have skin-to-skin first?
• Are you vaccinating your baby before you leave the hospital? Hep B vaccine is typically given before baby leaves.
• Will baby have their first bath at the hospital? Or do you prefer to wait until you are home?
• If it’s a boy, are you circumcising?

During an Unexpected Event

So, you plan for a beautiful, undisturbed vaginal delivery, but instead you are wheeled away for an unexpected belly birth! It’s okay, mama. But, keep in mind you have choices in the operating room, too.

Just because you are in the OR instead of a LD room, doesn’t mean that your preferences for baby are thrown out the window. Make this a priority. And if you can’t make any decisions, kindly ask your birth partner or doula to assist. While your doula can’t make any executive decisions for you, they can enforce your birth preferences that you already gave to the hospital staff upon arrival. 

• Some more progressive hospitals are able to perform belly births in a dimly-lit room. Is this something you prefer? 
• Would you like music playing during your belly birth?
• In the event that you are unable to have immediate skin-to-skin, would you like your partner to?
• You may prefer to have the catheter inserted after receiving the epidural instead of before, so you it won’t cause you discomfort. 
• Would you like your arms to be free so you can touch baby?
• Do you prefer a vertical or horizontal cut? (You may not have a decision in this, but have a preference in case.)
• Do you prefer a single or double-layer closure?
• Which incision repair method do you prefer – stitches, staples, adhesive tape, something else? It’s good to know what your provider typically uses. 

I hope this information helps. Now you know that you have options for your big day!

Still need help with how to write your birth preferences? Click here for a free template.

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