How to write a birth plan?
Preparing for your baby’s arrival is exciting, and stressful, especially when it comes to giving birth and what to expect.
Making a birth plan can help ease the nerves and also brings peace of mind knowing you’re somewhat in control of your pregnancy and labour.
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is a personalised list of what you’d like and expect when you’re in labour and ready to give birth.
It can include a variety of things like whether you want a natural birth, are open to taking pain-relief medication like epidural, what position you prefer to give birth in, whether you want to have a water birth and who you want with you when it all happens.
A birth plan is a good way to prepare for the delivery of your baby and can help women feel more in control during labour, birth and afterwards.
You will usually work with your midwife, doctor or obstetrician to come up with a suitable birth plan. It tells them specifically about your priorities, opinions and particular needs and concerns.
Things to think about
It’s important to have a clear idea of what you envisage during labour by doing research and attending antenatal classes with a friend, partner or family member.
The earlier you prepare your birth plan, the better.
If you’re not sure and aren’t too fussed about the options, you can choose not to have a strict birth plan, as sometimes birth plans don’t always go the way you’d like, especially if there is a complication before or during birth.
Organizing a birth plan can assist in communicating your wishes for the birth. However, a clear and effective plan isn’t a long and instructive document that may cause conflict between you and your medical team.
Here’s how you can avoid this from happening:
1. “Birth Preferences” instead of “Birth Plan”
Some women prefer to call their birth plan a list of birth preferences instead, as labour and delivery can be unpredictable.
Try to be open to this, as a birth plan’s main purpose is to communicate between yourself, midwives, doctors and anyone else who will be present at the time, about what you would like – with the expectation that anything can intervene.
2. Write it with a loved one
It can really help to write your birth plan with a loved one, or anyone who will be present at the time of birth.
Maybe your partner, sister, a friend, your mother or a doula can help to organise your preferences, while opening up dialogue about other options you didn’t consider previously.
Also, this is a good time to hear what your partner has to say about what they expect at labour and delivery. Maybe they don’t feel comfortable in cutting the umbilical cord, or don’t want the baby to receive a hepatitis B injection.
Perhaps your partner doesn’t feel comfortable discussing this with you at any other time, but while writing your birth preferences, you can find out where they stand as well.
3. Don’t make it a contract
It’s easy to get a little carried away when writing a birth plan, especially if you have a lot of questions and worries about what to expect.
Although this is fairly normal, it’s important to remember that medical professionals know what they are doing and will do their best to make you feel comfortable during the process.
A strict and instructional document with additional pages of notes for example, might aggravate doctors and midwives who are there to do their job.
Try to remain positive and polite!
Medical professionals don’t have time to read several pages, so keep it short with dot points or a simple tick box method.
Research what the options are online before any appointments to make sure you know what you’re agreeing or disagreeing with. Perhaps you’re against medication, and you think Saline is dangerous, when it’s just salt water solution extracted through a drip to keep you hydrated.
4. Write before your baby is due
A birth plan can be written as early as you like.
Some women already know what their preferences are before becoming pregnant. They’re usually written around the first trimester, particularly if you’re choosing a private obstetrician who will want to see it early.
However, it you’ve booked into a public labour ward or birth centre, you’ll have more time to get it done. It’s best to write it around the 35-36 week mark, or when your childbirth classes begin.
Don’t leave it until the last minute or closer to your due date!
What to include?
· List your preferences of pain relief, if you have any. Even if you’re not totally sure whether you want an epidural. You can also state whether you would like a birthing pool or things like acupressure, music, hypnosis and meditation, among others.
· Things like cutting the umbilical cord can’t always be planned until a few seconds before the baby arrives
· Mention things like whether you would like skin-to-skin contact with your newborn immediately instead of having it cleaned and wrapped first
· State whether you don’t want your baby to have a vitamin K injection, hearing test, or hepatitis B vaccine
· Include any allergies, religious preferences, disabilities or health concerns
Overall, think of a birth plan as a tool that is used as a way to make your experience unique.
Although it’s best to have an open mind as it’s extremely difficult to predict a birth, don’t ignore your worries or concerns in the fear of what others will think.
A plan should convey to all who are involved what type of labour and birth you would like to have, and what circumstances you want to avoid.
In saying this, it shouldn’t be compiled like a contract or essay that restricts medical professionals to make decisions if anything unexpected occurs.
While writing your birth plan, obtain advice from your obstetrician, midwife or an experienced antenatal teacher who can help to make informed decisions, talk to your partner about his role in the birth and what he expects and his ideas, and write down anything that comes to mind to research when you can.