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Will anyone even read my birth plan?

Birth plans are tricky things. On the one hand, it's extremely important to parents that their needs be communicated to their care providers. On the other hand, they generally don't like to be seen as too needy, or even worse, as an aggressive client.

I've heard from many moms who plan to review their birth plan with their OB or midwife, but are doubtful that the same provider will remember it, or pay attention to it while in actual labor. There's just too much going on, too much paperwork, and just one more piece of paper for them to review. The nurses don't have time for it, let alone the OB. And yet, how do we help our clients have their wishes remembered and respected?

Enter the visual birth plan.

I first saw this concept over at , and have been utilizing it ever since with clients. At our first prenatal appointment, I bring a sheet with all the icon choices to my clients, and ask them to circle the ones that are important to them. I have one sheet for the labor and birth, and one sheet for baby and immediate post-partum. The clients review the sheets and we discuss the various options together. It's a wonderful way to open conversation with my clients about some of the decisions the parents will have to make, and discuss evidence based practices.

Sheet with labor and delivery choices:

Sheet with baby choices and immediate post partum:

I then take home the circled sheets, and create the visual birth plan for my clients. They review it by email, and are encouraged to share the plan with their care providers. A copy of the plan is shared with the care staff when the laboring mom arrives at the hospital, and can easily be hung up on the bulletin board in the room.

Here is an example of a recent plan I made with a client:

This client didn't choose a large number of icons, but instead focused on the ones that were extremely important to her. Another client recently picked more than double this amount. Each plan is customized to the client, but they all have the paragraph on top explaining that these are wishes, not demands, and a thanks from the parents. Things tend to go much better when using honey rather than vinegar.

The nurses I've worked with love the visual birth plan. They can quickly scan it when getting mom settled in to her room and immediately be on the same page regarding her preferences for the birth. I have yet to have a care team ignore it, or quietly scoff at the length and detail.

As I mentioned from the link above, I didn't create the icons, but am happy to have them in my toolkit for helping my clients have the birth they envision.

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