Don't Forget to Create a Post Birth Plan

Photo courtesy of Merelize via stockvault

You’ve heard of writing a birth plan, but have you thought about your preferences after delivery?

I know. I know. You’re sick of planning and writing things down in anticipation of something, for which no amount of preparation will fully prepare you.

Here’s the thing. A lot happens in the first 24-72 hours of giving birth, and while you think the hard part is done, it’s just the beginning.

In the same way a birth plan can help you feel confident and safe about your birth, a postpartum plan can help guide your birth team to optimize their support for you and your new family.  

For instance, if you want immediate post birth bonding with your baby, make that known in your post birth plan. Too often I’ve heard about babies being whisked away from the mom right after delivery, only for the little guy to be poked, prodded, measured, wiped down, and burrito-wrapped before being handed back to mom.

Like your birth plan, the postpartum plan is all about honoring your preferences. Share those preferences with your OBGYN or birth team.

Here’s what our birth and after birth plans looked like. We’re visual people and the hospital staff seemed to like the icons. [You can find the birth plan icons here.]

Write here...

Additional postpartum preferences can include:

  • Request for a lactation consultant to visit

  • Request to have or prevent certain people from being in the recovery room

  • Your preferences for or against bottles, pacifiers, and formula

  • Desire to have at least one parent present should a medical procedure be necessary

Tips to consider when writing your plans:

  • Set a positive tone to encourage those who will be working hard along side of you

  • Keep the plan short and sweet (one page ideally, two pages max)

  • Show and discuss your preferences with your birth team or OBGYN near the end of your pregnancy

  • Have your doctor sign off on your preferences and have her send them to your hospital ahead of time

  • Pack a physical copy of the plan in your to go bag

  • Stay open and flexible to change because life rarely goes according to plan

We had success with the plans even though things didn't go accordingly

We really wanted a natural birth. I’d undergone a lot of medical intervention to conceive and wanted so badly to make up for it on the tail end by giving birth naturally. My son was almost two weeks overdue, so I was induced.

The start of induction. I'm clearly not happy about it.

The start of induction. I'm clearly not happy about it.

Induction was a top fear of mine. In my head induction = pitocitin = really intense contractions = fetal distress = epidural = emergency C-section. I was tethered to an IV, strapped to several monitors checking vitals, and I couldn’t eat food. This scenario already nixed a few of my birthing preferences.

I ended up delivering vaginally with a vacuum assist. But most of my birth preferences and all my postpartum preferences were honored. We ended up changing our minds about a few items at the hospital (like the mirror and hep B shot).

Although not everything went according to plan, I’m so glad we had our desires stated ahead of time. They initiated a positive rapport with the nursing staff. The nurses worked with and encouraged me to stick with my preferences, especially during those intense contractions.

When my son was close to coming out, the nurse told me there was a chance I might not get to hold him right away. He had his first bowel movement inside of me. A nurse told me he might need fluid suctioned out. My birth team explained everything to me like this along the entire way because I asked for that.

No suction was needed and I got to hold and nurse my son right away. He even inched up to my breasts (with some help). We had minutes of skin to skin contact. My doc waited for my cord to stop pulsating and had dad proudly cut it. No one rushed to take my son away for cleaning and weighing. We had time to be. It was the best!

After a day of induced labor and seven hours of pushing, I didn’t have the energy or clarity to consider or negotiate my post-birth preferences. I’m glad we had most of it planned out ahead of time.

Have you thought about creating a birth and post-birth plan? Did you create an after birth plan? How did it work out for you?

*Updated from June 3, 2016