A birth plan can be a really effective way to share whatever is important to you, to inform your midwife and to encourage good communication.
Some expectant parents are reluctant to make a birth plan because they think it would be a rigid plan and they would rather go with the flow. However, making a plan or listing your preferences for labour and meeting your baby means you have thought about it and you would like to be kept informed of your options.
Birth plans don’t have to be rigid – in fact I think it’s important for flexibility – it is simply a way of putting yourself at the centre of your care.
No two labours are the same and labouring women can have different needs and expectations. Writing something down can help your midwife to quickly get to know you, what matters to you and what you might want support with.
My recommendation for your birth plan is to keep it simple, straightforward and focused on what is important to you.
Your birth plan: what are your preferences for labour & birth?
- if your labour is straightforward, would you like your birth room to be undisturbed and calm?
- would you prefer to stay active and off the bed?
- would you like to use different positions to be comfortable and to help your contractions be more effective? Including if you have an epidural or an induction?
- are you planning on using your breathing for focus and calm with your contractions and to head off any panic?
- who are your birth partners?
- would you like to be kept informed of how labour is progressing?
- do you have preferences regarding pain relief? would like to use the birthing pool?
- would you like to be kept informed of your options?
- do you want to be communicated with?
- do you want a long skin-to-skin cuddle with your baby when he is born?
Your birth plan: these preferences are personal to you but the key elements could include…
- Positions – staying active, comfortable, rested and avoiding reliance on the bed. Whether you are keen to use a birth ball, chairs and pillows to stay active and comfortable.
- Pain relief – have you thought about your pain relief options? Would you consider using a birthing pool? Is there anything you would prefer to avoid? This doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind but it means you have thought about managing your contractions.
- Support from your midwife with breathing, moving, staying calm, information and working with each contraction.
- Your birth environment – would you like the ability to control your birth space? Using birth ball, chairs, cushions to be active and comfortable; switching down the lights; playing music?
- A caesarean birth – would you like to be given information about the birth of your baby? would you like skin-to-skin with your baby? Would you like to find out the sex of your baby yourself?
- 3rd stage – do you have any preference for the delivery of your placenta? Would you like delayed cord clamping?
- Meeting your baby – if you don’t know the sex of your baby, do you want to find out for yourself? do you want to have skin to skin? do you want to dress your baby yourself?
- Feeding your baby – do you want to breastfeed or formula feed? would you like to start with breastfeeding and then make a more long-term decision later on?
- Are there any specific details your midwife needs to know about? As an example – painful hips or knees, anxiety issues, any ongoing medical issues and what works best for you to manage it.
Your birth plan isn’t a fixed strategy – it is more about a way of communicating important information with your midwife. It is a way of asking for support, for effective communication and for discussion.
While your midwife will be knowledgeable. skilled and experienced, she most probably doesn’t know you and she won’t be a mind reader.