My Birth Plan
Making a birth plan can feel a bit like a mandatory school homework assignment that you don’t really know how to do; here are a few tips on helping you to decide whether you want to make one at all, and how to get started if you do.
What is a birth plan for?
Like any big event in your life, considering your options and deciding what you would like to happen is sensible. Writing a birth plan is not something you should feel daunted by – it is simply a useful way of gathering your thoughts and preferences about labour and your baby’s birth and setting them down on paper, so that the healthcare professionals looking after you will know what you would like.
It needs to be a flexible plan, as birth can be unpredictable and sometimes things have to change, but your midwife will do the best she can to help you have the birth that you want. Don’t worry that you might forget to put something in your birth plan; anything that needs to happen will be discussed with you first.
Do I have to make a birth plan?
No not at all – it is not a legal requirement! Some women are happy to ‘go with the flow’ and see how labour goes, particularly if they have had a baby before, while others feel more confident if they have made a plan. If you are being cared for in labour by the same midwife that has seen you through pregnancy, she will know you pretty well by the time labour starts, and you may not feel the need to write it all down.
Good reasons to make one are if there are language difficulties, or you don’t feel like talking much during labour, you don’t have to rely on your partner to remember everything you wanted, and also if your midwife changes during your labour, she will be able to have a read through of what you would like without having to ask you about it all over again.
One other positive aspect of making a plan is that it does make you think and find out more about the options available.
When should I make a birth plan?
During the second half of your pregnancy you can start thinking about what to put in your plan. If this is your first baby, you may not know what you want. Doing some research on reliable sites will help you to decide. Try to get it done by 34-36 weeks, so you can have a discussion with your midwife about your plan; there isn’t much point in doing it any earlier as things in your pregnancy can change which may change the options available to you.
What sort of things could you have in your birth plan?
Anything that is important to you can be included in your plan, but here is a list of the things you are most likely to need to make choices about.
Things to think about:
- Where you would like to give birth (at home, a birth centre, labour ward)
- Who you would like to be with you when you give birth
- How you would like to give birth and what positions you would like to try for birth (in water, standing, sitting)
- What pain relief you would like to try
- Monitoring during labour
- How do you feel about having midwifery/medical students present?
- Having an episiotomy (cut) to widen the birth canal
- Induction or acceleration of labour
- Using forceps or ventouse (suction cap) to deliver the baby
- Caesarean section
After your baby is born
- Delivering your placenta
- Skin to skin after the birth
- Vitamin K for your baby
- Feeding choices
- If your baby needs special care
- Whether you have any religious or cultural needs to be observed
- Any language requirements
- Any physical disabilities for you or your birth partner that need to be accommodated in labour.
Where can I get the information to help me choose want I want?
There are so many places to get information, but not all of it will be factually correct or unbiased, so choose carefully. Your midwife is your first obvious source, and she may also guide you to useful links online or give you printed information. Antenatal classes are probably one of the most useful places to get information, as you will also have a chance to ask more questions and chat to other parents.
You could also ask friends and relatives, just bear in mind that their advice will be influenced by their own experience and thoughts about birth.
Here’s a few links and downloads that you may find useful: