As a midwife, I absolutely love birth plans because they allow me to know exactly what mum wants, which means I can best support her to achieve a positive birth experience.
Birth plans are not a rigid blueprint of exactly how your birth is going to go – they are an opportunity to really consider what you would like for your birth, and to ensure your birth partner knows these wishes too. Birth plans encourage you to research all of your options, the benefits and risks, and then to communicate your wishes with your care provider.
Some women will tell me they don’t want to create a birth plan as they ‘want to go with the flow’ – which I can absolutely understand. But I think going with the flow without considering all your options and choices can be a slippery slope into feeling overwhelmed during your birth. It can be stressful when choices are presented to you and you don’t know what to do. If the term ‘birth plan’ feels a little too rigid to you, you may like to use the term ‘birth preferences’ or ‘birth map’.
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is essentially a communication tool between you, your birth partner, and your care provider. They can help ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to supporting you during your birth. Birth plans also allow you to get all your wishes out of your head and written down on paper.
What are the benefits of writing a birth plan?
- Your birth partner knows your wishes and can advocate for you if needed during your birth
- Your midwife or obstetrician knows your different preferences so they can best support you to achieve the type of birth you want
- Gives you the chance to think about different birth scenarios such as an induction of labour or a caesarean so that you can consider all of your options well in advance of having to make the decision
- A birth plan allows you to feel more confident going into birth knowing you have a ‘game plan’.
What should I put in my birth plan?
Whatever is important to you! I encourage you to create a personalised birth plan, not just use a template or one someone else created. This is because their wishes may be different to yours, and you want to make sure that everything on your birth plan is something that is important to you.
Your birth plan can be as long or short as you like. You may only have a few things that you are really wanting, or you may want to include more detail – either way it is your birth plan, so make it as long or short as you like.
I encourage the women I work with to consider the following:
- If everything could go perfectly, what type of birth do you really want? Natural birth with no interventions? An induction? A planned caesarean? Of course, we can’t always control the outcome of our birth, but it is good to consider what your ideal birth would be
- Are you wanting pharmacological pain relief (like gas or an epidural)? Or are you aiming for a physiological birth with no medical pain relief?
- What other techniques would you like to use? Would you like access to a bath or shower? Or a fit ball to sit on? Will you be using hypnobirthing techniques?
- Consider in the event of a caesarean – what is important to you? Would you like immediate skin to skin contact with your baby in theatre? Would you like the drapes to be lowered as baby is emerging so you can see them being born Delayed cord clamping?
What do I do once I have written my birth plan?
Print off three copies. One for your partner, one to pack in your labour bag, and one to discuss with your midwife or doctor.
Take a copy to your appointment with your midwife/doctor and tell them, “this is my birth plan, can we have a chat about it as I would really like to discuss it with you prior to my birth.” Easy!
Aim to discuss with your provider before 37 weeks so that you are all on the same page should you go into labour before your estimated due date.
I believe that every pregnant woman needs a birth plan. They are a brilliant tool to facilitate communication between you, your birth partner, and members of your birth team. Make sure you get started early so that your birth plan is ready by 37 weeks.
Article written by PBC Expo Midwife Hannah