These days you and your partner can play a far more active role in your pregnancy, labour and birth.
You now have the resources to be selective about your birth choices, including your primary care-giver, and you are also in a position to make a plan for your baby's birth. Writing a birth plan enables you to think about your labour and birth options, and to express your feelings and decisions about how you would like to labour and how your baby will be born.
Your birth plan is a great way of letting other people (your midwife, doctor or obstetrician) know what you want and how you feel about certain things (eg. pain relief). This is important, because labour is an intense and painful experience and you may not be in a position to think clearly or voice your feelings and thoughts.
The most important thing to bear in mind is that it's OK to be flexible when the time comes. Just writing a birth plan can sometimes make you feel like you have to stick to it no matter what - this simply isn't true. Circumstances may cause some deviation from the plan, or you may find that you want to respond differently to certain situations as your labour and birth progresses. Just because your carers have seen your plan doesn't mean you can't change your mind to respond to your needs and the needs of your baby.
The best thing to do is view your birth plan as a guideline for how you would like things to progress, bearing in mind that if complications arise, or if things don't go as planned, you are prepared and have some idea of the alternatives available. Your might be in labour for much longer than you anticipated, or the pain might be much worse than you ever imagined. It's important not to feel like you've failed if you step outside the plan, for example asking for pain relief when it wasn't in your plan.
When writing your birth plan, try to outline the things that you feel will be most important to you during labour and birth. Carefully consider all your ideas and preferences and discuss them with your partner and health care professional before putting them on paper. The final result should make you feel a lot less anxious and a lot more confident and in control.
Some of the issues to consider include:
- Hospital labour ward
- Birth centre
- Home birth
Who you would like to be present
- Second birth partner
- Family member
Routine procedures that you find acceptable or unacceptable
- Fetal monitoring
- Rupture of the membranes
- Shaving of pubic hair
- Gas & air
- Natural methods (breathing techniques, massage, diversion)
How you would like to manage your labour and birth
- Level of mobility
- Showers / baths
- Snacks and drinks
- Labour positions
- Emergency intervetion and consent for emergency procedures
- Pushing (spontaneous or on demand)
- Episiotomy (elective or only if absolutely necessary)
What you would like to happen after the birth
- Natural delivery of placenta or use of syntometrine to speed it up
- Holding / feeding your baby immediately after delivery
- Time alone with your baby and partner immediately after delivery
- Vitamin K for your baby, and if so by injection or by mouth
Your birth plan will be unique to your needs and feelings, so you should do as much research as possible prior to finalising it. Ask questions at your antenatal visits and at antenatal classes.
Talk to other Essential Baby members in our birth forums.