All women are encouraged to write a birth plan during their pregnancy, so that everyone involved can clearly understand what kind of birth they desire.
Most midwives won’t be too keen on a rigid birth plan waved in their faces as you enter the hospital, and for some women the birth may be so quick that the birth plan stays in their bags. What a birth plan does do is force you to look at, and understand, all the options available to you, and that is why it is important to write one.
Do your research - Go to all your antenatal classes so you know exactly what is involved with each stage of birth, and the pain relief options available. It might be a good idea to quiz friends and relatives who have given birth, to help you get a true understanding of what might occur during your own birth experience.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when writing your plan:
Support - Who do you want with you at the birth and who don’t you want(sometimes relatives and friends can turn up unexpectedly thinking they can help – your midwife can send them away if you wish). Does your partner want to be with you, or would your prefer your mum, close friend or sister, if you have one?
Induction - Are you prepared for the fact you may go overdue and require an induction?
Where - Do you want a home birth or a hospital birth? If you want a home birth, discuss this with your midwife or GP first so they can assess your pregnancy and decide whether they will support your choice. Some hospitals have seperate birthing centre's that are midwife led and you can use these if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy. Talk to your midwife at your antenatal appointment to find out more and see if your hospital has this to offer.
Equipment - Do you want to try a birthing pool if one is available? Do you want a birthing stool, or birthing ball? Do you have your own TENS machine?
Positions you want to labour in - Would you prefer to have an active labour where you move from position to position, or do you want to lie down?
Pain relief - Do you want to avoid pain relief unless it becomes too much, or will you keep your options open. It is up to you whether you want drugs or not, and you can change your mind if things become unbearable. If you want an epidural, make sure you tell your midwife when you are admitted so arrangements can be made.
Episiotomy - Many women want to avoid an episiotomy unless it is absolutely necessary, so mention this in your birth plan.
Caesarean sections - Do you want to try everything you can before a C-section is considered? If you do have a Caesarean, does your partner want to be in theatre with you?
Your baby - Do you want your baby monitored with a foetal heart monitor, or would you prefer not unless necessary? Would you like the midwife to tell you the sex of your baby once it has been delivered or would you and your partner like to find out for yourself? Would you like your baby delivered onto your abdomen? Will your partner cut the cord, or would you prefer one of the medical team to do it? Would you prefer your baby to be cleaned up before being given to you or not? Do you want to try to breastfeed straight away?
Stage three – do you want to deliver the placenta naturally or use drugs to encourage delivery? Do you want your baby to be given Vitamin K?
Bear in mind that some women will get the kind of birth they want, and others will have unexpected twists and turns on the way. Don’t feel upset if your baby’s birth is not exactly what you wrote in your plan. Most babies are completely unpredictable, and what is important is that you and your baby are safe and healthy.
The information in this feature is intended for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your health, the health of your child or the health of someone you know, please consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional.