Labour is approaching and before you know it you’ll be meeting your baby for the very first time.
While childbirth is just one day it’s a big day so writing a birth plan is a great way to practically and emotionally prepare yourself for what lies ahead.
Writing a birth plan is an important part of your pregnancy. Even if you’re not the planning type, spending some time gathering information on labour and childbirth for your birth plan will help you start to see what is important to you in regards to your baby’s birth. Do you want a drug-free labour? An epidural hooked up and ready to go? How will you react if you need a Caesarean? An induction? Who will be there for the birth? Will you use a doctor or a midwife? These are all important decisions you don’t want to be making on the day when you’ll be high on adrenalin and not in any mood to spend time researching and understanding your options.
A birth plan can be a great communication tool for you, your partner and your health care provider. But remember, a birth plan isn’t set in stone.
“Birth plans reflect your ideal birth, all being well,” says Melissa Maimann, registered midwife at Essential Birth Consulting. “A birth plan is not a plan for how things will go because this can never be known in advance,” she says. “Instead, see it as a document that will help you to communicate your intentions for your labour and birth, all things being well,” she suggests.
Creating your birth plan
The key to a great birth plan is simplicity.
“Keep your birth plan short and sweet,” suggests Melissa. “Midwives are busy people so a 10-page birth plan simply won’t be read. Aim for one to two pages with the two or three most important things at the top,” she suggests.
Encourage your partner or support person to write the plan with you so they are included and know what will be expected of them on the day. They may be able to help you make your mind up about important issues such as how you would like to push, if or when you should be offered pain relief and who you will have in the room with you when it’s time to give birth.
It’s also important to keep an open mind about how your labour will play out. Rarely will things go to plan in the delivery suite so try to avoid organising things down to the last detail. Your birth plan is simply a guide and you may change your mind about some of your preferences when push comes to shove.
What to include in your birth plan
The things you want to include in your birth plan are the things that are meaningful to you, says Melissa. She suggests including:
- Whether you are happy to have medical or nursing students present during the birth
- Whether you will wear your own clothes or a hospital gown
- The position you’d like to give birth in
- The type (if any) of pain relief you would be happy with and how you would like it offered
- Whether you want a water birth (not all hospitals offer this so you may need to plan this in advance)
- Whether you want to breastfeed or not
- Whether you prefer a natural or an actively managed third stage of labour
- Whether you want directed or instinctive pushing
- Who you want present at the birth
- Whether you want your baby’s siblings in the room or not (and if not, where they will be during the birth)
Who gets a copy?
Once you have completed your birth plan make three copies — one that will stay at home with any carers for your other children, one that will go to the hospital with you and one for your midwife or obstetrician. Melissa suggests taking a copy to an antenatal appointment ahead of time to discuss with your health care provider.
What happens when things don’t go to plan?
“Most of the time a birth plan doesn’t go 100% to plan,” says Melissa. “A birth plan communicates your intentions and preferences but when something happens that causes you to rethink your plan don’t think of it as a failed plan. Think of it as a tool you can use to help you adapt to any situation that might arise and as a guide that will help you be aware of your choices and the reasoning behind them,” she suggests.
In the heat of the moment your midwife or obstetrician will help guide you and your partner towards an outcome that is in the best interests of you and your baby. Discussing your wishes with them in advance will help them present scenarios that fit within your plan wherever possible and give you the confidence to trust their advice in the case of any unforeseen developments.