Over the last few years, when hospitals have become increasingly busy and understaffed, creating a birth plan can be a great way to express your hopes and wishes about your upcoming birth. A birth plan will help to ensure that everybody involved in the birth understands what it is you really want.
When do you make a birth plan?
The birth of your baby is one of the most important moments of your life. In the weeks and months leading up to your due date, you may wish to spend some time thinking about your hopes and dreams for this magical moment. Before you begin to write your birth plan it’s a great idea to gather as much information as possible about all the options available to you. Have a chat with other mothers, join antenatal classes and have a look at what different hospitals and birth centres offer. You can keep track of your ideas by creating a mind map, writing in a journal, drawing or painting, whichever method works best for you.
How to write a birth plan
Birth plans are usually simple one page statements, although that depends on where you plan to give birth as this can alter the aspects that need to go into your birth plan.
You should try to keep your birth plan flexible and allow room for your partner, midwife, or hospital staff to make suggestions.
Try to use positive language throughout your plan as this will help those involved in the birth be more open to your ideas.
Make two plans for your upcoming birth. A natural birth plan of your ideal birth and a second one that can be used in the case of special circumstances. Even though I trust your body and believe that pregnancy and birth is a completely natural process, it is great to have something prepared, just in case.
Finally, if you can, try to make several copies of your plan so that all those involved have a chance to read through it well before your due date.
What should I put in my birth plan?
Start by creating a birth plan template with separate headings for each aspect of your birth. For example:
Where do you want to give birth? – This should be the first item on your birth plan as this can affect what you need to put into the rest of your plan. For example, if you are planning to give birth in a birth centre, which are usually staffed by women who cater and support natural births, you may only need a very small plan.
Have a think about where you want to have your baby – at a hospital, in a birth centre, at home?
Who do you want to be with you? –Consider who you want to be with you during your birth. Do you want to have a midwife with visiting rights present, a doula, your partner, family? Will there be children/siblings at the birth? If so, who will look after them?
What positions would you like to use? – Do you want to be mobile during labour?
Where can you rest if you wish to? What kind of movements do you have in mind? Walking, standing, using a rope, a tub, a birth ball? Will there be a mat, pillows, a ball, a bathtub? Will you be able to be on all fours, kneeling, leaning, walking, standing, squatting?
What type of pain relief do you want? – Massage, hot packs, tens machine, acupuncture, homeopathy, hypnosis, relaxation techniques, bathing, breathing, moving, medication etc.
What type of equipment do you want to use? – A Pinard horn, handheld Doppler, CTG? Do you want an IV line or not?
Here is a list of questions, not included in the birth plan example above that you may wish to consider. If something doesn’t resonate with you, just leave it out and move onto the next.
How do you feel about foetal monitoring?
What options will be provided when I give birth?
Can you eat and drink during labour?
How will you keep yourself well hydrated? Sipping water? Ice chips?
In case you want medication, should it be offered or will you ask if you want anything?
What will you do to avoid a tear or an episiotomy (which should only be done in rare cases)
Water birth, slow birthing, women led pushing, different birth positions?
Would you like to wear your own clothing?
Would you like to bring your own music?
Would you like to birth in water?
Would you like to use a birth stool?
Use upright positions?
Would you like to have a lotus birth, delayed cord clamping?
Can you reach out for your baby yourself and have skin to skin contact straight after the birth?
Do you offer full rooming in or a family room?
In case I feel good and want to go home after the birth what do I need?
For home birthing and birth centres what are your plans for hospital transport in case of emergency?
Just in case you need a Ventouse or a Caesarean section what are your special requests?
Keep in mind the above general suggestions, you can always add anything else that comes mind. Discuss your thoughts with your birthing partner and take your time to think what you would like.
Talking to your health care providers.
Where you plan to give birth and who is going to be your provider will change the decisions you make. Keep in mind there are many different systems throughout the world.
Most health care providers have set guidelines and routines. Although they usually want the best outcome for you and your baby, they might also be a bit stuck in their system. Some will be open to your wishes and others will view your list as very demanding, or increasing risks. Birth is a very unique process and what is normal for you might not be for another. That’s why you need to discuss your birth preferences with your hospital or birth centre. It helps you to understand what is normal for them and to also get some suggestions.
If you have a private midwife, ask her to go over your birth plan with you so you can discuss and resolve any issues long before your due date.
A birth plan helps to keep you focused on your wanted outcome. It strengthens your confidence. It also enables you to express your wishes for your labour and birth.
Writing a birth plan and discussing your best options with your birth partner ensures that you understand each other and you are taking the same language when it comes to your big day. This helps to ensure trust and confidence between all those involved in the birth.
Remember that during labour and birth, if an emergency arises, you can always request more information and time to think about your options
As I said previously, people will enjoy discussing your birth plan much more if it is worded in a positive way.
When someone tells you ‘No I don’t want this’, ‘I don’t want that’, ‘No, no, no… How does it make you feel? This is why when you write your birth plan you should try to use positive language. For example:
‘We hope to’
‘We plan to’
‘We have prepared’
Beginning with these statement helps to keep other people much more open to your wishes. Let people know that you have fully prepared yourself for any circumstances and that you look forward to them supporting you through this special moment. Get them just as excited as you are and give them the feelings of trust and confidence.
Just a few more examples that might be helpful to read:
‘In regards to pain management I have informed myself of all the options that you offer.’
‘I understand what is available and would like to ask for them myself if needed.’
‘I would like to be able to move freely and change positions as often as I need.’
‘It would be wonderful if I could use the bath tub as many times as I like.’
You can also create a list in case you have some emergencies arising. In this case it would be more like:
‘Can we start with skin to skin as early as possible?’
‘Can my partner stay with me if needed?’
A few final thoughts
Keep in mind that women give birth all the time without any complications. Giving birth is a completely natural process.
Ensure that you prepare yourself and speak up for your dreams and wishes.
Ask people to support your dream.
You can only have this baby once. So get prepared so that you can enjoy your experience.
I wish you a happy birthing day!