It would be lovely to know exactly how your labour’s going to go but until we can predict the future, writing a birth plan is the next best thing. Read on to find out more
What is a birth plan?
It does what it says on the tin – it’s the plan of how you’d like to give birth, which is used by those helping you, such as maternity unit staff, midwives or your birthing partner… But it’s worth bearing in mind that even the best-laid plans change – your baby could arrive earlier than expected or you might decide on a different type of pain relief.
Where can you get a birth plan?
When you go for your first appointment with your midwife, you’ll probably be given a book of notes (usually blue) that contains forms and information about your pregnancy. Each time you go for a scan or a check-up with your midwife, the notes are updated.
Your notes may include a basic birth plan, which you can add to later after chatting about options with your midwife or going to your antenatal classes. However, you can make your own birth plan from scratch and chat about it with your midwife. If, by your 26-week appointment with your midwife, this hasn’t been discussed, ask her about putting a plan together.
Keep a copy of your plan in your hospital notes book, which you’ll need to have with you when you give birth. It’s also a good idea to give a copy to your midwife and have a spare copy at home.
What to include in your birth plan
It can be as long or as short as you want, although if your birth plan is as clear and concise as possible, this will help anyone with you during labour. Here are a few things you might want to think about and include on your plan:
Where do you intend to have your baby (home, midwifery-led unit or birth centre, or hospital)?
What kind of delivery are you hoping to have (vaginal birth, caesarean or water birth)?
Who are you planning to have as a birth partner(s)?
Is there a particular midwife you’d like to be there if she/he is available?
What kind of pain relief are you planning to use?
Are there any other things you’d like to use, such as massage or relaxation techniques?
Will you need a birthing pool, birth ball or TENS machine?
What positions would you like to use during labour (remain upright and mobile for as long as possible, prefer to be in bed, etc)?
How do you want your baby’s heart to be monitored during labour (hand-held device or an electronic belt strapped around your waist – ask your midwife for more information about these options)?
Do you have particular feelings about assisted delivery, for example about the use of forceps or ventouse?
Do you have any special wishes for the first moments after your baby is born?
Are you planning to breastfeed or use formula?
As you progress through pregnancy, other ideas are bound to come to you. Make notes when you think of them and chat them through with your midwife and birth partner before adding them to your final birth plan.
What if it doesn’t go to plan?
Even with the best planning in the world, your labour is unpredictable. You don’t know how your body will react and your plans may need to change to allow for a safe delivery. Even if you were adamant you wouldn’t have an epidural, once the baby is on the way you may have other ideas. It’s important to keep an open mind and be flexible with your birth plan as things often change as your labour progresses.
If your labour differs to your birth plan you can discuss this with your midwife after the birth. They’ll be able to answer any questions you may have and tell you why things progressed differently to your plan.