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What Is A Birth Plan? And Do I Actually Need One?

At one point or another, every soon-to-be parent asks themselves a ton of questions about the upcoming birth of their child. The more they get to thinking, the more complicated and elaborate the answers seem to get. The logical thing is to plan it out. Writing a birth plan has become very common place nowadays, and most couples will bring one along to the hospital when they go into labour. There’s a huge variety of templates and checklists available on the internet to help you articulate your ideal birth. Since I am new to the topic, I set out to find an expert to get the real answers for you, and I turned to the wonderful ladies from National Capital Doulas.



Many of our clients ask us for help or advice regarding their birth plan. During prenatal visits with our clients, we always make sure to discuss their birth plan, or preferences. In fact, our clients have access to a number of templates and resources that we have gathered together to help take some of the guess work out of writing a birth plan.


If you don’t have a doula to help guide and advise through this process, here are a few tips and information to take into consideration.


1. Remember that these are your birth wishes or preferences.

At National Capital Doulas, we tend to avoid the word plan, which can seem rigid. We encourage our clients to consider a number of different scenarios that are very common in birth, and we ask them to think about their preference in these situations. Just because you aren’t planning a caesarean doesn’t mean you shouldn’t rule out the possibility. If you had to have a cesarean birth, what would you like to see happen? If you needed to be induced, you should know what your options are and if you have a preference about the method of induction, don’t be afraid to speak up.


2. Know what’s routine at your place of birth.

Many birth plan templates or checklists are based on the American health care system. Here in Ottawa, many of our client’s preferences, like delayed cord clamping or skin-to-skin are actually routine practice in the hospitals or the birth centre. Check with your care provider during your appointments to see what on your list of birth preferences or wishes, is already routine procedure.


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3. Use assertive language.

Often, women write their birth wishes as though they are asking permission from hospital staff to be able to labour the way they would like. Freedom of movement, pushing positions, and informed consent regarding any procedures done to you or your baby are rights, not something you need to ask permission for. Use assertive language to state your preferences and help guide your care provider.


4. Record any previous or existing medical conditions, or triggers, that could affect your labour or your care.

This could include things like allergies to food or medication, a previous back injury, cervical procedures, organ transplants, severe menstrual conditions, previous loss, trauma or abuse. You don’t have to go into detail, but information about these issues can help your care providers support you more effectively and compassionately.


5. Nothing you write down on paper is more effective than the ability to advocate for yourself.

Always ask about your options, alternatives and what the benefits or risks of any intervention, procedure or medication are. It’s okay to ask for a few minutes alone to discuss things with your partner, doula or loved on. Short of a medical emergency, there is always time to ask questions and think things through. At National Capital Doulas we work with our clients to help prepare them for the birth of their baby, but sometimes things can happen in labour that could not be predicted or anticipated. We often tell people,

You don’t hire a doula because you plan to have an ideal birth. You hire a doula because you have no idea what kind of birth you will have. Your doula can help you navigate, and will give you support, through whatever kind of birth you have.


We have been in your shoes and know the difference it makes to be met with compassion, warmth, calm confidence and lack of judgement. We will be by your side through birth, labour and early parenting. If you want to learn more about birth options or doula services, we would love to hear from you! Send us a message to book your free consultation.

– Danielle


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Danielle James is founder & co-owner of National Capital Doulas, a DONA certified birth doula, and is also a trained postpartum doula. Danielle became interested in doula work after the birth of her two children; her experiences with birth and breastfeeding have made her passionate about providing women with the information they need to make choices for themselves. She considers it a privilege to support women and families no matter what kind of birth they are planning.

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