Do I really need a birth plan?

This question comes up a lot.   We’ve written about it before.  But it still comes frequently.

You finally get to the third trimester, you realize that this baby is coming, and labor and delivery are going to be very real experiences for you.   As you start preparing for this, you read about having a birth plan.  There’s a lot on the internet on the subject.   The most common reasons why women are told they need a birth plan:

  • Your delivery should go exactly as you want, not the way doctors want
  • Your wishes need to be respected in labor
  • Birth plans encourage communication with the healthcare team
  • You need to communicate your preferences for pain meds (or be clear you don’t want any)
  • You need to communicate the environment you want
  • Preparing a plan makes you learn about all the details of childbirth and the decision you will need to make
  • To remind you of your plans when you’re in pain and losing it

What’s the real purpose of a birth plan?


There are things you want to say or to be known about how you’ve thought about your labor and delivery experience.  So women are guided to download templates, most frequently from the internet, where some unknown person has written a bunch of plans for them. 

We highly advise you think about it another way.  You should be choosing a physician and hospital you feel comfortable delivering with.  There is a balance during labor and delivery over what can be done to help a woman have the delivery she hoped for and helping her successfully and safely have her baby.   With a good healthcare team of physicians, nurses and other support staff, the woman’s role in all of this is central.

At most hospitals, a woman is the patient, the room is hers. She’s oriented as to ways to control the lights, the temperature.  Her and those with her are really in charge of controlling the environment.  During intake there is a lot of conversation with the nursing staff, to determine what the patient understands of the process and what her plans are. 

If it’s a spontaneous labor or an induction, normal progress is explained, when needed, interventions are explained, and women’s preferences are asked about as she goes through the various stages of labor. 

Labor and delivery are very dynamic processes with ever changing feelings in the woman and responses from her baby. The nursing and medical staff around the woman are there to make it go as smoothly as possible. 

We are fortunate at El Camino Hospital to have amazing nursing staff who are always centering the patient during their labor and delivery experience.  The great rapport that is developed during those few (or many) hours is important to help educate and guide a woman through some of the most important moments of her life. 

If a woman has a birth plan, we prefer it’s been reviewed by our physicians in the office beforehand.   Birth plans are most welcome by ourselves and the nursing staff.  However, we prefer patients to feel comfortable expressing themselves dynamically all along the way and not feel the need to communicate via a static, written document.

For those who want to go through the process to help with visualizing the experience and decisions that may come up, we have a sample birth plan on our website here.  It helps explain standard practices at El Camino Hospital as well as the standard practices of El Camino Women’s Medical Group.  The rest includes decisions that are valuable to think through and generally up to the laboring woman.

As always, if there are concerns or fears surrounding labor and delivery, it is very important to bring that up in the office with your physician.  






El Camino Women’s Medical Group offers the latest Minimally Invasive Solutions for gynecologic problems.   Drs. Amy TengErika Balassiano, and Pooja Gupta, all members of AAGL (American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopy) are highly trained and experienced in the field of Minimally Invasive Gynecgologic Surgery.   Dr. Erika Balassiano is also completed a Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery Fellowship, under the supervision of world-renowned Dr. Camran Nezhat.


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