Why you should (and how-to) write a birth plan (with downloadable templates)

Hey y’all!  It’s due date month around these parts!  I’m 36.5 weeks along, and in honor of that I thought we’d spend some time chatting about birth in general, beginning today with making a document called “Birth preferences” to help you and your OB/midwife to be on the same page.

Let me step back and say that I’m not usually the type of person who tells you that you should do something.  That’s not really my style.  But birth is a big deal, and birth in Catholic families that are open to life, is even more so. At the risk of sounding bossy, I think writing your birth preferences should absolutely be a priority for you, and here’s why.

Why you should consider writing out your birth preferences

If you’re a Catholic young woman, consider this: you might be planning to have a larger than average family.  If God grants your prayers, there are simple steps you can take to help protect future babies and fertility. Avoiding an unnecessary c-section tops that list.

C-sections, while miraculously life-saving in some cases, also increase the risks of complications in future pregnancies.  I’m not saying that to scare you: I’ve had a c-section and am grateful for it!  But there are a lot of unnecessary c-sections done each year, and if you can avoid it, do it. It may save you heartache down the road, and will most certainly help you avoid a painful recovery from a major surgery.

Many women think the only reason to write a birth plan is if you don’t want an epidural, but that’s absolutely not true.  Even if you decide to go the epidural route, having your wishes written down can be really helpful to your birth team. There are so many factors and variables in hospital routine, and you have a lot of say in what will happen to you and your baby during your labor and delivery.  Spending a little time in study and preparation could very well alter the entire course of your birth.

Birth is a huge, profound, life-altering event.  It’s going to be profound whether you prepare or not, but it’s going to be a heck of a lot less scary if you have an idea of what you’re in for.  And I’m not talking about labor war stories told at the baby shower that make you want to shout, “Fine! Go ahead and put me under now and let me know when it’s over.” (No no no, don’t listen to those stories! Run far, far away!) I’m talking about knowing just a little bit about what to expect in a normal, uncomplicated birth.

How to write a birth plan:

1: If at all possible, take a birth class. And if I may be so bold as to suggest it, take an out-of-hospital birth class. Hospital classes are often better at preparing you to accept hospital routines than actually informing you about all your options.  There are exceptions, of course, but that’s largely been my experience. If you really, truly can’t take a birth class, consider choosing some books from this list and getting them from your library or Amazon.

2: Talk to your husband and dream up your ideal birth.  How exactly would it go?  After you’ve nailed that down, anchor it in reality.  Most likely you won’t be able to give birth in a seaside resort in Phuket, but you may be able to have a birth tub if your hospital offers it. At the very least you can close the blinds and play your favorite music on your iPhone to drown out the hospital din.

3: Talk to your doctor or midwife and find out what his/her regular practices are, and about the routine practices at your hospital. Find out how open your OB and the hospital are to your preferences and make concessions if you’re able.  It’s okay to have non-negotiables, but not everything should be non-negotiable. Showing some flexibility might earn you some in return.

4: Write out your birth preferences. Follow these guidelines for maximum success:

  • Keep it positive.  Whenever possible, say what you want, not what you don’t.
  • Keep it short.  One page, maximum, in a font style and size that’s easy to read.
  • Use bullet points and bold-faced type so busy nurses can skim it rather than needing a cup of coffee and a magnifying glass to read it.  😉

5: Bring the birth preferences sheet to your doctor at your 36ish week appt. Have your doctor sign it and slip it in your file, and keep a copy for yourself.  Actually, the copy you keep will be more useful to your husband; you might be a leeeeeeetle busy during labor. In the off-chance that he wasn’t taking notes during your long monologues romantic conversations about cord clamping etc, he might want a handy-dandy reference.

6: Prepare yourself for things to go differently than you dreamed up in #2.  This is real life after all, and birth is as wacky and unexpected as the rest of it. “Pray, hope, and do not worry,” as Padre Pio said.

And now, just for you and all of your friends, here are my birth preferences.  Feel free to download them to your computer and change as you see fit.

Download: Unmedicated Birth Preferences

Download: C-section Birth Preferences

(I keep that second one tucked into my hospital bag just in case it ever comes up again.)


Just in case you were wondering why I care so dang much, here’s a very short summary of my birth history.

I had a scheduled c-section with my oldest child, Gianna, which you can read about here. When I became pregnant with my second daughter, Aliya, I knew I had to do homework in order to advocate for myself.  I knew I wanted to have several kids (ha) and I didn’t want repeat c-sections to endanger me or any future babies I might have. After I had an amazing VBAC with Aliya, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and I became certified as a childbirth educator. I taught classes for a couple years and had a couple more babies (Gabriel, Ezekiel) but after being in Korea for a year or so, I let my certification lapse and just helped my friends and family informally. 17 months ago I gave birth to Rosalie in a parking lot and while it makes for a great story, I’m hoping this next one will be a little less exciting.

TL;DR: Lots of babies, childbirth educator, getting ready to birth #6.


Your turn!  What are your must-have requests during labor and delivery?

For a baby who, although she's killing me by waiting this long, at least appears that she'll let me eat Thanksgiving dinner at home.

Pregnant with Rosalie 17-ish months ago.  Oh, Lordy.  The current occupant of my uterus is so much bigger.  Yikes.



  1. I couldn’t agree more with this post. For our first child, we had a concise but well thought out birth plan. We ended up with a very necessary emergency c-section under general anesthesia. It couldn’t have been any farther from what we envisioned or had on our plan. However, our providers did their very best to meet as many of our wishes as they could. Our midwife was able to get the baby out of the OR as soon as he was medically cleared and skin to skin with my husband and they stayed that way for hours until I was awake and able to get to them. The minute I rolled in, the nurses were getting him to my breast. The first lines of our birth plan stated our desire for healthy baby (first) and health mom (second). I forced my husband to have a hard discussion when we wrote the birth plan that if something terrible happened, baby came first. As I was being run down the hall and we were facing the very real possibility of a terrible outcome, I was so grateful that he knew my wishes and they were all written down. We are now expecting our second child and our birth plan will be tailored for a desired VBAC, but we will also create a second one for a potential repeat c-section.

  2. Oh my goodness – you are so close!!! I have never done a birth plan, as all 4 births I have been induced and also wanted an epidural. But after having to go pain medication free last time, I understand why a birth plan would be helpful. If I were to go med free again (which is not the plan… ;), I think having just a paragraph typed up ahead of time would be nice. It could probably just say “Everybody leave me alone. Come back when it’s time to push.” 😉 Also, this did not occur to me until way after my last birth, but nobody counted for me when I pushed! Not a big deal, and everything kind of went opposite of planned, so my husband just didnt think of it I’m sure, but I’d probably include that too!

  3. Oh my goodness, I just read Rosalie’s birth story for the first time. That is so crazy and awesome, and kind of scary for this mama who is about as close to giving birth as you are, I think. When is your due date?? May 31 here. I think the giving-birth-in-the-backseat scenario is my husband’s worst nightmare, and he’s even a physician!

    Anyway, I am about to go and read some more birth-y stuff around here. I’m all in birth mode at this point too 🙂 Also, I’m with you on the need for a birth plan. Mine is already done and in my hospital bag!
    Amy @ Motherhood and Miscellany recently posted…Twin Cities Adventure – 7QTMy Profile

  4. Amber Nicole says:

    Love it, especially about educating yourself! What’s the birth plan, this time, stay home?? 😉
    My #1 request is water. Just give me a tub of warm water and keep pouring it over my back.
    I’m so excited for you!!

  5. I have become more and more lax about writing up a birth plan as I’ve had more babies. I think part of it has to do with our hospital being very much on the same page as me (delayed clamping, skin to skin, etc.. are all pretty standard there, plus I’ve had the same midwives for all the babies so, we know each other pretty well by now).
    Although next time (should there be a next time), I’m going to put in a clause about “no complaining/comments about how long things are taking” (I had an epidural and things were just real lazy for a while, and *someone* wasn’t thrilled to be waiting around doing nothing… #endrant)
    Praying for you in these last few weeks!
    Ruth Anne recently posted…Outdoors: FinallyMy Profile

  6. This is so helpful! I am entering the third trimester with #1 and I’m really starting to focus on the details of the birth. It’s a HUGE help to see a sample birth plan, especially from the perspective of a Catholic mom who intends to (/already has) have as many children as God wills for our family.

  7. 36.5 weeks? How is it even possible? Why do pregnancies always go so quickly when you’re watching them virtually, but crawl by when it’s you?
    Cari recently posted…Contender for Most Boring Title Ever: Updates Around the FarmMy Profile