Birth plans mean exactly what they say and are a plan about how you would like your labour and birth to be. Often, women say “I won’t make a birth plan, I’ll just go with the flow”, as they imagine their birth might be unpredictable or they won’t be able to control how things happen.
Having a birth plan can help you to plan what you want for your labour and birth. It will also inform the midwives and other health care professionals caring for you about your plans, enabling them to incorporate your wishes throughout, however your birth journey happens.
Ultimately, a birth plan is a unique view into what is important to you on one of the most special days of your life.
Why have a birth plan?
Try to keep your birth plan focused upon the important factors to you and make sure it is easy to read, with bullet points or highlighted text. Make sure that the midwife who is caring for you reads your plan at the start of your care and that anyone else who takes over, or needs to be involved in your care, reads it too.
Whilst every detail on your birth plan may not go exactly to the letter, we are all individuals and, as such, how we want to labour and birth can be very different.
Often birth can happen relatively easily but, even if things don’t go quite as you planned, it doesn’t mean that all the desires on your birth plan must go in the bin. Lots of your wishes can be incorporated into your birth experience, even if you planned a homebirth and end up giving birth via caesarean section.
These things may not happen, though, if your care providers don’t know about them. Hence the importance of not only writing your birth plan but insisting those caring for you are aware and have read it.
Things you may want to include in your birth plan
- Where you would like to labour and give birth and how you would like the environment around you to be. For example, you might be the type of person who wants to have a lot of privacy or, on the contrary, one who likes people around them.
- If you are having your baby in hospital, you may like to think about how you would like your room. Do you want dim lights? Would you like to bring your own home comforts (battery candles, fairy lights, pillow etc) to help you to relax?
- What positions and equipment would you like available to you during your labour and birth? You may want access to a birth stool or to use the water pool.
- What position would you prefer for birth? Lots of women don’t want to give birth on their back, so stating this in your birth plan will enable your midwife to facilitate alternative positions for you.
- How would you like to birth your baby? Look into to the research behind what is being recommended to you and make your own decisions. For example, there is now a drive towards ‘hands on’ delivering in many trusts, as they believe this may prevent severe tears. However, the research behind this is not conclusive and you may prefer to breathe your baby out slowly with guidance from your midwife.
- If you need an assisted birth (forceps or ventouse), you may have specific wishes, such as ensuring your baby still has delayed cord clamping.
- If you are having a planned caesarean section you can include how you would like things to be, such as having your own play list or having the drapes lower so you can see your baby being born. Most theatre teams will be happy to accommodate any of your wishes where possible.
In summary, a birth plan can be really helpful for you and your partner to plan what is important to you, as well as informing those who are caring for you during labour about your wishes. If your birth does not go exactly as you thought it might, there are always things that can be incorporated into your birth from your plan.