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How to create a birth plan that fits your needs

When you’re getting ready to have a baby it can be hard to decide on a birth plan—where you’ll deliver your baby, who will deliver it, and more. This is a very personal choice for many parents.  

What’s a birth plan?

It's exactly as it sounds—a birth plan is your labor and delivery plan, a way for you to think through and organize your preferences related to your baby’s birth, so you can share them with your health care professional.   
Your birth plan can include things like who you’d like in the room when you deliver, how active you’d like to be before labor, if you’d like medications to relieve pain, and how you’d like to feed your new baby.  
It also usually includes who you’d like to deliver your baby and where you want to give birth. Here’s some information to help you understand your options so you can make an informed decision. 

Doctors, nurses, midwives, and doulas: What’s the difference?

Building your pregnancy, labor, and delivery health care team is an important part of preparing for delivery. Here are some of the specialists to consider.  
  • Obstetricians are doctors that specialize in pregnancy, labor, and delivery. They have surgical training and can perform cesarean deliveries.1 
  • Certified nurse midwifes can perform many of the same health care services that doctors do like gynecological exams, writing prescriptions, and providing care and support during labor and delivery.2 
  • Doulas can provide physical, emotional, and educational support during and after birth.3 
  • Family practice doctors can also take care of pregnant women and deliver babies. They generally don’t do surgeries like cesareans. 

Hospital, birth center, or home: Where to deliver your baby

When deciding where to delivery your baby, many pregnant women have options to choose from, ranging from hospitals to birth centers to home births.  
  • Hospital. A hospital may be the only choice for high-risk pregnancies. You’ll be close to doctors and nurses with the training and technology to intervene if necessary. Plus, you’ll generally have better access to pain relief if needed. 
  • Birth center. Birthing centers support the practice of midwifery.4 They generally offer fewer medical interventions, like inducing labor, among other things and can be a good option for low-risk births. Some birth centers are next to a hospital, but they are usually a separate health care facility. They can start emergency interventions and will help transfer the family to a hospital if needed.  
  • Home. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends hospitals or certified birthing centers as the potentially safest settings to give birth. However, delivering at home could be an option for you if you and the baby are in good health before delivery, you have a registered midwife in attendance, and are planning for a safe, quick trip to a hospital if the need arises.5

How to select a hospital

It can be a good idea to evaluate several different hospitals for your delivery. Keep in mind, your choice of doctor could influence the hospital where you’ll deliver because doctors have admitting privileges at specific hospitals.  
Evaluating a hospital: Questions to ask 
Consider these questions as a starting point when considering hospitals for your delivery.6 
  • What are the policies on visitors in the delivery room? 
  • How is the baby monitored during labor and delivery? 
  • What are the hospital’s rates of induction, episiotomy, epidural, or cesareans? 
  • Does the hospital have a neonatal intensive care unit? 

Document your birth plan

Once you’ve decided how and where you want to deliver your baby, it’s a good idea to document this in a birth plan. Here’s a template from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to help you get started. 
It’s also important to remember—your birth plan is just that, a plan. It’s a way to document your wishes and goals but it's also important to be flexible. Sometimes situations arise that require a change to your birthing plan. At the end of the day both you and your health care professional have a shared goal—the safest possible delivery for you and your baby. 

Consider a health savings account (HSA)

With an HSA, you can pay for qualified medical expenses in a tax-advantaged way.

More to explore

1. “Choosing an Obstetrician,” American Pregnancy Association, December 9, 2021, 2. “Midwives: Benefits of Having a Midwife,” American Pregnancy Association, December 9, 2021, 3. “What is a Doula?,” DONA International, June 23, 2023, 4. "Birth Centers," American Pregnancy Association, November 11, 2022, 5. “Planned home birth: Committee opinion,” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2023, 6. “Questions to Ask on Your Hospital Tour,” Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health,

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.