A birth plan isn't a record of how your baby's birth will proceed; rather, it's a record of your birth preferences, covering issues such as the type of birth you'd like, the people who'll be there, and your preferred medication options. It can be a good communication tool for your healthcare professionals and birth partner, and just gives you a chance to really think about what you'd like.
Melissa Maimann, founder of Essential Birth Consulting, is a Sydney-based private midwife who spends a great deal of time talking her clients through their birth plan options. "A well set out birth plan is a really good way for a woman to communicate with her care providers about what is important to her in relation to the birth," she says.
"A well-presented birth plan can help all the carers to see at a glance what your stated preferences are."
What goes in it?
What goes into a birth plan depends on what's important to you personally about birth. As such, every woman's birth plan will be different. Some common inclusions are:
- Birth companions: The people who will be with you throughout your labour might include your doula, partner, parents or other friends. This can also include who you don't want in the room (such as your mother-in-law or doctors in training).
- Environment: Do you want the lighting dimmed? Aromatherapy oils? Particular music? Anything that's important to you about your environment can be included in your plan.
- Pre-delivery activities: Some people wish to keep as active as possible during their labour, others may prefer to be resting as much as possible. Any special items, such as a bean bag, fitball or birthing pool that you particularly want could be listed here.
- Medical monitoring: You may want to be constantly monitored, or to reduce your monitoring and examination to a minimum.
- Pain relief: There are many pain relief options, including breathing exercises, gas, pethedine and epidural. You may wish to outline which pain relief options you are willing to try, and in what preferred order.
- Preferred delivery position: While you may change your mind at the time, you might want tor record your preferred birthing position.
- Any procedures you'd like to avoid if possible: Some examples might include induction, rupture of the membranes, use of forceps.
- Post-birth procedure: Cord-cutting, skin-to-skin contact, specialist examinations and immunisation could all be covered in your birth plan.
Pick out the top three things that are most important to you and put those in bold writing at the top of the birth plan
How to write it
As well as spending plenty of time researching your birth options, Maimann stresses the importance of presenting them in an easy-to-read way, so your busy medical carers can understand at a glance the things that are important to you.
"Putting together a birth plan is almost like doing an assignment," she says. "Although it's the result of hours of research and preparation, the end result should be short and concise and well laid out."
Melissa advises that a birth plan should be one to two pages maximum, as the midwives may not have time to read it all otherwise.
"Also, pick out the top three things that are most important to you and put those in bold writing at the top of the birth plan," suggests Melissa. "That way even if the whole plan doesn't get read, hopefully those most important things will. Set it out neatly and make it easy to read with clear headings and bullet points."
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