Creating a C-Section Birth Plan

Pregnant woman scheduling a cesarean birth

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Having a cesarean section (C-section) is not something moms always have control over. But whether you are scheduling a C-section birth or you end up having an unplanned procedure, thinking about your preferences before your baby's arrival can be helpful. It can prepare you emotionally and ease your recovery. Additionally, you can work through your options and communicate your wishes by creating a birth plan.

While birth plans are not intended to be followed to the letter (mainly because that usually ends up being impossible), the exercise of creating them can prompt you to ask questions and think about all aspects of the birthing experience, including a potential C-section. Additionally, a birth plan can help facilitate communication with your doctor.

Where to Begin

You don't need a fancy document or journal. A simple piece of paper or electronic document will do. A complete birth plan covers a range of topics, from the desire to use pain medication to preferences for the number of people in the room when you deliver, and more, including your thoughts about a C-section. Again, remember that a birth plan needs to be flexible and should include a range of contingencies, including for a C-section, whether you intend to have one or not.

Use a bulleted list format for your birth plan and keep things brief. Create sections so that the nurses who care for you can quickly find the appropriate part. So, if you end up having a C-section, they can read about your related wishes rather than having to scan through your preferences about baby feeding or when you'd like to go home.

C-Section Birth Plan Topics

There are many topics that you will want to consider adding to your birth plan in relation to a C-section. While some C-sections are done under emergency circumstances, your practitioner will work with you to accommodate your preferences when possible. However, remember that your health and your baby's health are your medical team's primary focus,

Until you solidify your birth plan, your initial draft can include a mix of both existing wishes and questions that will help you shape your final thoughts. Here are some topics to consider:

  • Can you have a mirror to watch the birth?
  • Can you have the baby placed on you in the operating room while the surgery is finishing?
  • Is photo taking permitted?
  • Preferred anesthesia options (epidural, combined spinal-epidural, or general)
  • What postpartum pain management options are available?
  • When can you begin breastfeeding (if desired) after the procedure?
  • Who can be with you at the birth? Your partner? Your doula?
  • Who will go with the baby if they need special care?

Sample C-Section Birth Plans

This sample excerpt of a birth plan is an example of one that a woman having a planned C-section might create to express their preferences and desires. It is not intended to be a script and should only serve as inspiration for a plan of your own.

I fully realize that situations may arise such that my plan cannot and should not be followed. However, I hope that, barring any extenuating circumstances, you will be able to keep me informed and aware of my options. Thank you.

The Surgery

  • Baby on my skin in the OR
  • Breastfeeding in the recovery room
  • Breastfeeding only
  • Do not bathe the baby; we'd like to do it later as a family
  • Doula present at all times
  • Duramorph for postpartum pain
  • Free one hand to touch the baby
  • Mirror to view the birth
  • No pacifiers or glucose water
  • No pre-operative medications
  • No separation of mother and baby
  • Partner to cut the cord
  • Pediatric exams in the mother's room
  • Skin-to-skin in the operating room
  • Spinal/epidural anesthesia
  • Partner present at all times
  • Videos and pictures allowed

Use the above plan as a template to create your own.

A Word From Verywell

Once you have written your full birth plan, ask your doula or childbirth educator to look it over, fill in gaps, or help you clarify your needs. Once you're ready, show your plan to your doctor and discuss any issues. The finalized document should be given to your obstetrician, the hospital, and perhaps your pediatrician; keep extras in your hospital bag.

Remember that what happens during your birth may stray from your birth plan. Still, setting out your intentions ahead of time is still a worthy exercise, particularly if it gets you to consider multiple possibilities for your birth—and to make peace with whatever may come. Also, even if it doesn't happen exactly as planned, creating a birth plan gives you a greater sense of control and engagement with the birth itself.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Pregnancy Association.Creating your birth plan. October 2019.

  2. Magee SR, Battle C, Morton J, Nothnagle M. Promotion of family-centered birth with gentle cesarean delivery. J Am Board Fam Med. 2014;27(5):690-3.  doi:10.3122/jabfm.2014.05.140014

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Pregnancy: epidurals & pain relief options during delivery. December 2018.

  4. KidsHealth from Nemours. When your baby’s in the NICU. Updated: January 2019.