A birth plan is a simple one page statement outlining your preferences during the birth of your baby. If you desire to have a formalized birth plan, here are some things to know:
- The appropriate time to share your desires is during your pregnancy. You can work with your doctor or midwife to develop a plan during your monthly appointments.
- While it is helpful to share you desires, there's no substitute for the medical expertise of your doctor or midwife.
- Birth plans cannot anticipate all the possibilities that accompany the birth experience.
- Remember to be flexible as you look toward your birth experience, and keep in mind that you and your doctor share a common goal - the health and safety of you and your baby.
Learn more about birth plans.
Choosing a Doula
A doula is trained to give non-medical assistance to women during labor, which can include emotional and physical support. If you are considering a doula to be a part of your 3-person labor support team, here are some things to remember:
- The doula cannot perform medical tasks.
- Decisions about your medical care will be made by you and your doctor or midwife.
- Talk to your doctor or midwife about your decision to have a doula present during your birth. He/she may be able to give you names of doulas who have attended births at Virtua in the past.
- Doulas typically charge for their services. Check with your insurance to see if doulas are covered under your plan.
Read this patient letter regarding doulas.
For more information, read Considerations When Choosing a Doula
When you are 5 to 7 months pregnant, you should pre-register with the hospital where you’ll deliver your baby.
Packing for the hospital
When preparing for your hospital stay, consider what you and your partner or coach will need before, during and after delivery. Also, consider what you’ll need for your baby.
Coming to labor and delivery:
- Admission documentation Identification (such as driver’s license)
- Insurance card
- Claim form (if necessary)
- Co-pay (if applicable)
- Eyeglasses or contact lenses and case and toiletries
Packing tip #1: Pack two bags - one for labor and delivery and one for after delivery. For your convenience, please leave after-labor items in your car until after you’ve been moved to the mother-baby unit.
Packing tip #2: What to leave at home - jewelry, large sums of money, credit cards and other valuables.
- Bathrobe, nightgown, slippers and socks
- Nursing bra, breast pads and maternity underwear
- Going-home outfit
For your partner or coach:
- Money for vending machines
- Guest meals available in the cafeteria (credit cards accepted)
- Basic toiletries
- Change of clothes
- Snacks and reading material
- Camera/video recorder and battery back-up
For your baby:
- Car seat
- Going-home outfit
- Receiving blanket
Before your baby arrives, you'll need to review your insurance coverage for labor and delivery.
Important note: Typically insurance companies require notification of birth within 24 hours after birth to enroll your new baby into your policy; it is critical that you consult your insurance carrier to ensure your baby’s coverage.
Virtua accepts most major insurance plans. To ensure Virtua accepts your insurance carrier, call 1-888-Virtua-3 (1-888-847-8823).
Waiting to Deliver
If your pregnancy is healthy and you are considering scheduling your baby’s birth, it is best to stay pregnant until 39 completed weeks.
Babies born at early term (between 37 and 38 weeks plus 6 days) are usually healthy, but they are at a higher risk for medical problems compared to babies born full term (39 to 40 completed weeks gestation).
As a result, babies born at early term have a higher risk for the following:
- Admission to neonatal intensive care unit
- Babies born early term are 2 to 3 times more likely to be admitted to neonatal intensive care unit than babies born at 39 weeks.
- Breathing problems
- Due to their lungs not being fully mature, babies born early term may need help breathing. They may receive oxygen by nasal prongs or by being connected to a machine called a ventilator.
- Temperature control problems
- Babies born early term may spend time in an incubator (warming area) to keep their body temperature stable. Your baby does not have enough fat deposits beneath his/her skin to keep warm outside your womb.
- Feeding problems
- A baby needs 39 weeks in the womb to suck and swallow well and stay awake long enough to eat.
- Blood sugar problems
- Babies delivered at 37 or 38 weeks have a higher rate of low blood sugar problems.
- Jaundice Problems
- Babies delivered at 37 or 38 weeks may not be able to easily get rid of bilirubin, a by-product of red cell breakdown. It can build up in the baby’s blood, tissues and fluids. This is called hyperbilirubinemia. Because bilirubin has a pigment, or coloring, it causes a yellowing of the baby's skin and tissues which is called jaundice.
In addition to ensuring your baby’s health, there are other factors to consider for not choosing to have your labor induced for convenience or preference.
These factors include:
- Inducing labor for a non-medical reason may not work. When your labor does not progress, it may lead to a cesarean section.
- Early term cesarean section babies may have more medical problems.
- Remember, having a cesarean section is major surgery. Your c-section recovery will range from 4 – 6 weeks and will be more painful.
- Women who have c-sections are at greater risk for complications in future pregnancies. Complications include:
- Placenta previa is a complication during pregnancy when the placenta grows and covers all or part of the cervix. It may cause bleeding before or after delivery. It may start or stop on its own, or it can be severe requiring blood transfusions.
- Accreta occurs when the placenta attaches too deep in the uterine wall. Women who experience placenta acreta during delivery are at a great risk for hemorrhage.
Discuss this information with your obstetrician. Obstetricians use guidelines for labor induction from their professional organization the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. These guidelines help them to determine when it is right to induce labor.
Sometimes, there are circumstances that may require induction of labor prior to 39 completed weeks. If you do not meet these guidelines, it is best to wait for nature to take its course. Remember, when you have a choice about when your baby will be born, wait until your baby is 39 weeks or older.
Watch these March of Dimes videos for more information:
Have questions? Get answers by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
VirtuaBaby content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you’ve read on VirtuaBaby. If you think you are experiencing a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.