A birth plan is a written record which will help you communicate with the midwives and doctors who will take care of you during labour. It should hold a range of information about how you would want your birth to be handled and what to do after your baby is born.
Writing a birth plan will not only help ensure the kind of birth you want, but will also encourage both you and your partner to be actively involved in the whole birthing experience.
You should try and write your birth plan as soon as possible during your pregnancy. You should take your time to research all your decisions as well as your local facilities, such as hospitals or birthing centres, as these may be included in your plan. Having a clear understanding as to what is available around your local area will help you decide what is not feasible.
Once your birth plan is written, you should refer it to your GP or midwife, as they may have useful information to assist you and support the plan you have made. You should also discuss your birth plan to anyone else that will be present during your labour. This way everyone should have the same information and help keep other hospital staff or members involved who may not have seen your birth plan. If you are confused about anything else that you feel should be included, do not be afraid to talk to your doctor or midwife; they will be able to draw from their experiences of other birth plans which may prove very useful.
Your hospital and midwife should support your birth plan but you should always try and be prepared that things may not go to plan and be willing to take other recommended options, by your doctor or midwife, should the situation arise.
Writing your birth plan in the form of a letter is fine, but a clearly laid out list is preferable. Below are some questions you may wish to consider.
- Where do I want my birth to take place? For example, at home, a birthing centre or a hospital
- Who do I want present at the birth? For example, husband, partner, mother, sister
- What type of pain relief do I want? Pain relief during labour includes having an Intramuscular injection, an Epidural, TENS machine, gas and air or other natural pain relief practises
- Do I want an assisted birth? Through the use of forceps or a ventouse
- Do I want my labour induced? This is where the labour is started artificially. This is offered usually when doctors believe there may be a risk to the mother if the pregnancy is prolonged rather than to give birth straight away.
- What position do I want to give birth in? There are lots of different birth positions possible such as lying on your back, side, standing and squatting.
- Do I want my baby monitored? This is when your baby’s heartbeat is monitored at regular intervals when in labour, using a Sonicaid or Pinard.
- Do I want medical assistance to speed up the birth/delivery of placenta? By applying pressure on the uterus or using an injection
Other questions you may want to include are:
- What do I want to happen in case of an emergency?
- Can my partner cut the cord?
- Do I want to hold my baby immediately after birth?
- Do I mind having medical students present?
Once you have a birthing plan in place, be sure to take it to your doctor or nurse and discuss the choices you have made further.