Free Visual Birth Plan Template (That Nurses Won’t Scoff At)

A birth plan, sometimes referred to as birthing plan, is a blueprint of what choices you and your partner have made for the arrival of your child. It also helps your birth attendants support you during your labor and delivery in the best possible way.

Sounds great right? Except it’s not, because nobody cares about your birth plan.

Why nobody cares about your birth plan

It’s sad but true. Nobody really cares. It’s sort of a joke at many labor and delivery nurses stations.

I’ve heard many stories of nurses laughing at birth plans or the women who write them; sometimes referring to these laboring moms as “high maintenance.”

Some nurses believe that women who write birth plans are trying to control birth. They laugh because they see a correlation between a rigid birth plan and a c-section.

Nurses especially hate birth plans that are perceived to be:

  • Overly detailed
  • Condescending or rude
  • Demanding, especially if without regard to extenuating circumstances and safety

To those nurses, women who write birth plans are inflexible, don’t understand the unpredictable nature of birth, and want a natural birth even if it costs her or her baby their safety or health. They believe that a birth plan just sets moms up for disappointment.

How to create a birth plan that actually gets read

But a birth plan is important

Unfortunately, the laughing and eye rolling is the reason that many women write the rigid birth plan to begin with, because they don’t think they will be taken seriously or have their wishes respected.

A birth plan is a very important step to having the natural birth you want. A birth plan is about putting down your preferences, in black and white, before labor begins so that you are prepared for whatever events may arise and can make informed choices about your and baby’s care and safety. It also enables your birth team to access those choices without disrupting you during labor. (Be sure you’ve discussed your desires in detail with your birth team so that there are no surprises in labor!)

So what’s a natural mama to do?

Luckily, we’ve got your back. Here is a printable VISUAL birth plan just for you. Print it out and bring it to the hospital with you. It’s simple, respectful, and clear; perfect for getting your natural birth wishes across without causing eye rolling.

➜ Click here for a PDF of this birth plan

Print it out, bring it with you on the big day, and you’re all set.

Want to personalize this visual birth plan?

➜ Click here for a customizable visual birth plan (in MS Word format)

This customizable birth plan also includes visual birth plan icons for:

  • No IV please
  • No membrane sweep
  • Food and drink for mama
  • No students please
  • Pitocin only if necessary
  • Gentle cesarean
  • VBAC
  • Delay eye ointment
  • No formula
  • No circumcision
  • Limited visitors
  • No pacifiers
  • Donating cord blood

Download a customizable version of this visual birth plan


Do I really need a birth plan?

If you choose your birth space and attendants with care, you may not need to write down many of the things found in most birth plans.

For example, a good midwife won’t routinely break your water, do unnecessary vaginal exams or insist on continuous fetal monitoring. Furthermore, you may discover that many of your choices, like doulas in the birthing room or no mention of epidurals, are standard care with your chosen attendants.

If you’re delivering at a hospital, creating a birth plan is probably a good idea. Standards of care differ from hospital to hospital. Some hospitals will assume you are okay with various labor interventions that run counter to your wishes. In these cases, a birth plan can be very important.

Did you use a birth plan?

Did it help you? Do you feel like hospital or birthing center staff paid attention to it? Share with us in the comments below!

References

www.improvingbirth.org/the-evidence-shows/

Learn how to have an amazing birth with the Mama Natural Birth Course

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58 Comments

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  1. I am so excited to use this visual birth strategy at the birth of our second child. I love the simplicity and style!
    I was wondering if a spontaneous pushing, no perineal massage, and topical anesthetic for stitches icons could be added?
    Thank you so much for your efforts! I really hope this helps my next birth go more as I intended.

    • Thanks for your input, we’ll consider those for sure!

      • Thank you so much! I realize that you get a ton of similar requests (the comments seem endless)! I would love to help if I could! If there was some way I could create custom icons that match your style within my personal file, or oblige all of the other other icon requests, I would feel it a privilege. I love this type of graphic design, especially when it has such an awesome purpose as a birth strategy!

  2. Could you possibly send me a link to download the editable file? It hasn’t yet sent to my email and I tried a few times. Thanks!

  3. Several hospitals in the area are now offering Nitrous Oxide, which we’d like to have available. Can an icon be created for this?

    • Absolutely!

  4. Can you make an editable version for Macs? I only have a Mac and cannot use the Word file, only TextEdit or something similar. Thank you!

  5. Thank you very much for sharing your inspiration and creative work with us. It is so very much appreciated. I love it when people are generous with their ideas and support of others. Like many of the others who have commented here, I have a wishlist for icons as well that you may consider adding. I had a lotus birth with my first child and would love to be able to express this in pictures as I prepare for the second. It means not cutting the cord at all, but waiting until it stops pulsating to wash the placenta, put in a bowl or pouch and either wrap it if using ice to keep it cold (usually cheesecloth) or cover with herbs and salt to ensure it dries safely. The bowl/pouch with the placenta is kept with the baby so that the baby can absorb all of the cord blood over the following three-four days as the cord dries naturally and falls off for a very gentle birth option. It’s a bit of a logistical feat carrying both the baby and the attached placenta (we kept it in a small bowl on ice so that it could be viable for turning into a supplement (encapsulation) after three days). Other people simply bury the placenta in a special spot. I’ve heard some parents put it in a pouch and sort of wrap it to the baby so it doesn’t risk being pulled when the baby is moved around (which is good if you don’t need to keep it cold!). In any case, it means no cord cutting at birth, no clamping, etc… whether it is a vaginal or c-section birth. So some icons describing the steps would be in order for birth attendants when a family chooses this approach. Thanks again for your wonderful initiative!

  6. As a NICU nurse I love this birth plan and how simple it can be. While I am pretty open to most things during the birth process, it is nice to have a way to express the few things I really care about. I would love to see a “vacuum/kiwi or forceps only if necessary” option.

  7. The visual birth plan is brilliant! I can’t believe my graphic designer husband didn’t do this with our text heavy one last year…lol. Using this in the spring! Thank you!!

    • Glad you like it!

      • I love easy Natural Things so much better that junk that is not natural pregnancy is not a medical condition it is a natural process

  8. I’d love to see a “water labor” icon.

    • Just read that some of the icons may be stacked on each other. After moving all of them, I found a lot more! I hope that helps others! 🙂

  9. Hi Mama Natural.
    I love your birth plan…
    Although struggling to see icons for “No Epidural / Pain Injections”, “No Vacuum / Forcepts”.
    Could you kindly add these?

  10. Just wondering and confused as to why the “Breastfeeding ASAP” icon came out red… Wouldn’t that be similar to immediate skin to skin, and something we would want in a natural birth or gentle cesarian? I’m just worried now, is there something I missed?? For instance in a gentle cesarian, wouldn’t we WANT the immediate breast time?

    Thanks for the help.

    (I’m 34 weeks, and need this for an appointment tomorrow, so I had my husband edit the image color to match the blue desirables. It’s not perfect, but it will work. But maybe the color could be easier to edit in the pages version?)

    • I’m wondering the same!! Any answers to this?

    • I’m thinking the icon is red to bring more attention to it. If it meant “no,” it would say “NO breastfeeding ASAP.” Does that make sense?

    • You are totally right! Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We’ve made it blue now.

      In the plan, we’ve made the “YES, do this!” icons blue, and the “NO, don’t do this” icons red. That one just got mixed up somehow.

      See? We’re always better when we work together. Thanks!

  11. Hi Mama Natural,
    I got the birth plan and love it, but wondering if you guys can make an ORAL VIT K OPTION for your icons? I want it all to match, but can’t find that one…
    Thank you for advocating for natural birth!!
    Maggie L

    • You could always crop the No Vit. K pic that they include and insert your own text box under that says “oral Vit. K”

  12. I’m all for giving birth as naturally as possible, but some of these items are simply unrealistic for me. While I did give birth in a hospital, unmedicated, it was without a written birth plan. Partly because my hospital strongly encourages much of what is on this general list as standard practice, at least the parts that are most important to me. (I was able to hold and nurse my baby immediately after birth, visitors were not allowed for a certain amount of time, etc.) But also partly because one of the main things on this list – pain management and epidurals – is irrelevant in my situation. It is physically impossible for me to have an epidural, so I have no choice but to go natural in this way, unless I need an emergency C-section. Which, fortunately, is not typical.

    So istead of a birth plan, I carry a post-operative report from the back surgery I had as a teen, indicating the degree of my spinal fusion so that it’s clear to everyone that I can’t have an epidural. If I were to need a C-section, it would require general anesthesia, which was a scary thought the first time around. But my doctors do not take C-sections lightly and would only do it if it is absolutely necessary.

  13. This was so helpful! I made my birth plan a few days before making the decision to be induced early because of my high blood pressure. While I knew that the finalized version of my plan wouldn’t be entirely possible given the induction, it really helped my sense of preparedness to have it on paper.

    My nurses were very impressed with the clarity of my wishes and thought the pictures were the coolest thing. I started with a statement to the effect that I understood birth is unpredictable and I that would appreciate best efforts to stick to my preferences barring medical emergency. I didn’t get any pushback or eye-rolling at all!

  14. Seems as though there are icons missing from the customizable template that are on the PDF? Also there is extra text under some of the icons, any way to fix this?

    Thanks!

    • The first page of the customizable birth plan is identical to the PDF. The second page contains additional icons. You need to open this document in Microsoft Word or Apple Pages in order to edit it. If you’re having issues, your version of Word may be outdated? If you’re seeing extra text under icons, it’s likely that the icon image is stacked on top of another image. Try moving it around. Each image has a correct description below it. Good luck!

  15. How do I edit the customizable version of this? I’ve tried to edit it on word and adobe reader but can’t seem to change the color or anything? Can some explain how it works?

    • You can delete ones that don’t apply. I also cropped the wording and changed it on some, by inserting my own text box underneath the picture. So, for example, I knew I couldn’t have a water birth, but I wanted to labor in water. So I changed out that text to say water labor.

  16. I love this so much! I’m due in less than a month so I’m making mine as we speak. I do wish that the “breastfeeding asap” icon was navy blue instead of red (since red means “no” and navy means “yes”); it’s very glitchy and won’t let me change the color to navy despite pulling out all my tricks so I had to reformat way more than necessary. If you can fix that one icon for future users, this is a great, easy to edit form!

  17. I love this idea for a birth plan that can be read at a glance. My partner will also be keeping a more detailed log of things I want if things go “off track.” Would it be possible to add a blank customizeable square in each color? I have a few of my own that I’d love to add – such as “do not reveal gender” “quiet please” “mom will cut cord” “no bathing” etc.

    Thank you for putting together this awesome template!

  18. I’ve had my clients use this plan many times, but I’m going to use it myself for the first time and I don’t see many icons that my clients have found and when I downloaded it, it looks different. Theirs were multicolored and square. I also can’t add anything to the word document without it get getting out of line. Did the format change?

    • If you select all of the pictures (CTL + click on the icon) and right click, wrap text, select “in front of text” then you can rearrange the icons without them getting all jumbled and overlapping trying to fit them in.

  19. Thank you!

  20. So happy about the easy to follow format! Hubby couldn’t remember what to allow and not allow as we learn more about labor and birth with each pregnancy. This is natural baby #3 for us with awesome experiences at our local birth center but you never know what might happen and its good to have a visual aid available when you might not be able to verbalize it yourself!

  21. Hi,

    Please can you consider adding an image saying ‘No Forceps unless absolutely necessary.’

    Thank you! Such a good idea!!!! No one listens when you’re giving birth and partners can get quite confused so this should be great.

  22. This looks great! I am 29 weeks pregnant & very nervous about giving birth in a hospital (can’t afford a home birth & did a free standing birthing center the first time). I will have a typed plan & this one as well. Thank you so much for offering this!!!

  23. This is fantastic. Would you consider adding icons for:

    ask before vaginal exam
    no IV unless dying
    no membrane sweep or stretch
    no Pitocin or cytotec
    no stirrups

    • Thanks for the feedback MT! We just added:

      – Limited cervical exams
      – No IV please
      – No membrane sweep
      – Pitocin only if necessary

  24. This looks so much prettier than what my husband and I typed out! Wish I’d come across this when I was pregnant! We called our plan, “Birth Preferences” and my doctor mentioned he appreciated the nuance. For me, I found it most helpful in that I felt very informed and knew I wasn’t walking in blind. My son came VERY fast (42 min after we got to the hospital) so the birth preferences paper was accidentally left in the car, but I had it in my head and was able to advocate for myself because I had made that list.

  25. Thank you for creating this editable natural birth plan Natural Mama. Can you please make 2 more pictures? It would be great to see a “Magic Hour” or “Undisturbed 1st Hour” picture and also a “Breastfeed Only” picture. Thanks again

    • Good idea. Thank you for suggesting.

  26. Thank you for creating this! I just emailed mine to my doula and printed 3 copies! 38w yesterday! You seriously are my hero! I have shared multiple links among our Centering group and Crunchy due date group to your resources, especially this one! Much love and thanks!

    • Aw, my pleasure! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  27. I love this! I have taught natural childbirth classes for several years and this is exactly what I always said! Thank you so much for taking the time to create this!!

  28. i am actually super excited about this birth plan set up. we are planning on getting pregnant again in the next 2ish months and we totally wanna use this. with our first we didn’t have a birth plan written out. we knew what we wanted but never got it printed. though we had an amazing birth

  29. This is great! Thanks for sharing. It’s only missing a “breastfeeding only” icon 😉

  30. Thank you for this! I’ve been looking for something simple and not bossy-sounding that the nurses could easily check. I’m hoping not to need a birth plan, but this is what I’ll use if I do.

  31. I had a simple birth plan for my first birth that was completely ignored and resulted in severe physical and psychological scarring. My plan for my second child was as a result completely different- it was simply “unless we are about to die don’t touch me, don’t touch my baby” and he was born in the hospital car park. I did have a midwife so prenatal care and she followed us in the car to the hospital. But he was born the moment I got out of the vehicle. I only agreed to go to the hospital because husband passionately didn’t want an unassisted home birth. If i ever have another I’ll be doing it at home unobserved since it turned out I was in fact fully capable of handling my own labor start to finish. I just don’t trust any “professionals” enough to let them touch me ever again.

    • oh and just to include my first birth was considered “uneventful, normal vaginal delivery” because apparently a non-consensual stretch and sweep and ruptured membranes and handing my baby around to waiting family members instead of giving him to his mother so the student could shower the mother is “uneventful” and “normal”. there was never any indication that I needed any of the interventions the OB just thought he would speed things up “for” me. it was just a very long, normal labor.

      • I’m so sorry to hear about your birth trauma. I work with mommas who have experienced birth trauma and birth pain and I know how much it can impact you. I have a community of women on Facebook who are working through stuff like this if you would like to join!

        http://Www.facebook.com/groups/1710600819157752?

  32. I used this for my own birth plan and the nurses LOVED it (so did the docs, but it was mostly the nurses looking at it)! As I was walking around the labor unit, I had nurses stopping me and complimenting me on how cute and easy to use it was for them. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Hearing this makes my day. Thanks Lindsey!

  33. Awesome I’m hoping to study midwifery and doulary ( is that a word ?) when I’m through with high school thx!

  34. Are the icons’ colors supposed to signify something in particular? Or are they just given the random colors they have?

    • Green is go and red is stop… Signifies what you do and don’t want.

  35. This is genius. I’m due in a little over a month, set to deliver in a hospital and was just thinking how I needed to make a birth plan, but was unsure how to approach it. This is so helpful, it has a nice visual appeal which is so easy to understand and I think would really go over well. Thank you!

  36. This is genius! I love this visual approach. So much easier for those busy nurses to understand your birth wishes and so unoffensive and condescending. I think this will be the start to a new chapter in the Natural Birth world. Thank you so much for providing this!

    Love you’re site and all of the amazing resources you have for us Natural Mama’s.

    I am a doula and childbirth educator and I used a birth plan for both of my deliveries. I find they are so helpful for starting conversations prenatally with your care provider. Make sure everyone is on the same page and you’re wishes are going to be respected. Don’t wait until your in the delivery room to start having these conversations.

  37. Yes I did use a birthplan and yes the nurses and midwife read it and stick to it.
    I discussed the plan weeks before I gave birth so they know the contents and knew why I wanted some things.

    I wrote a birth plan because of my experience by the birth of my first son.
    (I got 2 boys and 1 girl an wrote 2 plans)

    The first time every thing went according to “my” plan a real handsoff birth with my daughter the second time with my son I had medicine and the midwife want to check the heartbeat an contractions but I wrote in my plan I didn’t want to be monitored so she didn’t. They lissend to his heart twice but not the whole time.

    In the Netherlands it is very common to give birth at home. Because of my medical history with my first son the doctors and midwife advised to go to the hospital. Thankfully in the hospital the midwife was the one who assist my during labour so it felt like I gave birth at home.

    • Hi Marleen,

      Just wanted to give you a shout out! 😉

      I am living in the Netherlands, married to a dutch man. I have two children and am very happy to have given birth here in the Netherlands!
      My second birth was wonderful, in the hospital with a midwife, with my birth plan.

      I felt so respected.

      Groetjes!

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  1. […] tuned! One thing I also included in my bag is a copy of my visual birth plan, which I made from a template from the Mama Natural website. Some people find birth plans laughable, but I think if you think of it more as a list of birth […]

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