writing a birth plan

The Beauty of a Flexible Birth Plan

By Laura Plewa, RN St. Luke's Obstetrics & Gynecology Associates

How to be prepared in case your delivery doesn’t go as designed

Having a plan is a beautiful thing. It helps you identify your goals and think about how you’d like to try to accomplish them. This is especially true when it comes to birth.

A birth plan serves as a road map to follow during your labor and delivery. This can include everything from who you want in the room with you to pain management. Thinking through these things can calm your fears, help you make better decisions in the moment, and be as prepared as possible for what’s coming.

However, even with the best of plans, there’s always the possibility of a detour or two, and birth is no exception. This can be a scary thought. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help you be ready in spite of the unknown.


Communication is Key

We want to know what you want. This helps everyone to be on the same page, making for a smooth labor and delivery. Your doctor will talk to you about creating a birth plan during your pregnancy. This will ideally happen well before labor, so you have time to think everything through, ask questions and make educated decisions. Your birth plan will be part of your prenatal record, so we will be ready for you when you come in for labor and delivery. Staff will also put a sign on your suite door so that everyone participating in your care knows to reference this document.

We will keep you informed during the process as well. This means we will let you know the moment a detour from your birth plan might need to be taken. If this happens, we can walk you through the steps and make sure you’re clear on your choices before we take that alternative route together.


Address Your Fears

It’s important to talk about any fears you have with your healthcare team during labor so we can address them. I’ve found that doing this often keeps the mother and partner calm, especially when detours need to be taken.

We understand that birth can be an exciting and scary experience at times. Many of the nurses at St. Luke’s Birthing Center are mothers themselves, and know what it’s like to have to divert from a birthing plan. I distinctly remember being with a coworker during her delivery. I was able to look her in the eyes and ask her what she was afraid of. As soon as she told me, we were able to deal with it and her fear was gone. Every mother at St. Luke’s receives that same treatment.


Talk About the ‘What-ifs’

Before labor even begins, it’s a good idea to have a conversation about the ‘what-ifs’ with your birth partner. This can help you both stay calm and flexible.


This can include questions like:

  • What if I need a C-section? What are my fears or questions about that procedure?
  • What if the baby needs extra help transitioning to life outside the womb? Does my birth partner stay with me or go with the baby?
  • What if I change my mind on pain management? How late is too late to administer an epidural? What are my other pain options?


Change is Okay

The more flexible your birth plan, the more prepared you can be for any changes that need to be made due to unforeseen circumstances. It’s also a good thing to remember that emergencies don’t have to be the only thing that cause the birth plan to change. As a mother, you can express your opinion at any time and change your birth plan if something no longer feels right.


We’re with You

The final thing to remember is that the entire team at St. Luke’s is committed to ensuring a safe delivery. It’s important to us that you know you are not going through labor and delivery alone. We’re prepared to guide any changes that need to be made to your birth plan.

St. Luke’s Birthing Center is located in Duluth, MN, with St. Luke’s clinics in the surrounding region, including Superior, WI. To schedule a tour of St. Luke’s Birthing Center, call 218.249.5605.


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