Birth plan


What is a birth plan?

A birth plan is a document that lets midwives, doctors and birth partners know what your delivery preferences are and how you want to be treated during labour. Whether it’s a written birth guide or just a few important things that you’ve discussed with your midwife, a birth plan is there to help you feel prepared for labour, leaving you with more time to focus on getting ready to meet your baby.

Planning for the kind of birth you want is absolutely your prerogative. After all, this is your birth and your baby. Remember, though, that things can change during your labour for many reasons, and sometimes, the outcome will be different from the one you’d planned for.

Try to keep an open mind to prepare for your own unique birth experience.

Preparing for birth

You might have a very clear idea of the kind of birth you want. On the other hand, you may only have started thinking about it as you near the end of your pregnancy.

During labour, all of your focus will be on bringing your little one into the world, and with this in mind, it’s a good idea to write a birth plan, whatever the level of detail. This will help the doctors and midwives who’ll support you to do just that.

Think about your birth preferences and what alternatives you’d be happy with if things needed to change. For example, if you’re planning to have your little one at home, make sure you have a home birth checklist, but also think about what you’d like to happen in the event you have to go to the hospital. It’s a good idea to keep your birth plan flexible so that you’re as prepared as possible for any eventuality.

Finally, try writing it down and keeping it on your file, ready for when your labour begins. That way, it will serve as a good guide for what you’d like to happen during labour and those precious first hours following your baby’s birth.

How to write a birth plan

Before writing a birth plan it's useful to find out about your different options from your healthcare professional and other reliable sources. They need to know your birth preferences and how to best prepare you for your labour, so ask them plenty of questions.

Another great source of ideas for your birth plan are other parents. They have been through this, too, and will be able to give you some good insights and handy tips to help prep you for your little one’s arrival. However, everyone's medical history and individual circumstances vary, so while relationships with other parents can be valuable, it is not always best to base decisions on others' experiences. More than anything, they will tell you a birth plan is there to help you prepare for labour. Antenatal classes are also a great opportunity to speak with practicing midwives and other expectant mothers about their birth preferences and what their birth plans are.

Some mums-to-be can find writing a birth plan a bit daunting, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Have a look at some birth plan examples to get a better idea of what they involve.

What is a birth partner?

Your birth partner is going to play a key role in shaping your birth plan and, more importantly, during the birth of your child. You can choose anyone you like, from your partner or the father of the child to one of your parents or even a friend. It is up to you. Crucially, they will be there to act as your primary support, but also to make sure as much as possible that your birth plan is going the way you want it to.

What should I include in my birth plan?

Below are some important things to include when planning for labour and writing your birth plan:

  • Your name. Seems fairly obvious, but midwives see a lot of birth plans so they need to know whose they are looking at.
  • Where you are planning on giving birth. This needs to be thought through ahead of time. It might be your local hospital, or you could be opting for a home birth, but wherever you choose, this needs to be clearly specified on your birth plan.
  • Your birth partner’s name and their relationship to you.
  • Although not everyone has a designated midwife, if you happen to have one, make sure you write down their name.
  • Pain relief. This is a key one. The clearer you are on this the better, but remember, your birth plan is not written in stone, and things can easily change during labour.
  • Birthing position. Do you want to be squatting, kneeling, on all fours or sitting up? There are lots of options, so it’s worth considering what will make you most comfortable during labour. If you’re a little unsure, have a chat with your midwife.
  • Do you want a water birth? Just because they are called birthing pools doesn’t mean to say you have to give birth in them. Many women use them during labour to help relieve pain but choose to get out of the pool for the actual birth. If you decide you want to give birth in water but you have specified otherwise in your birth plan, or vice versa, it’s ok to change your mind. Remember your birth plan is just a guide and things can change. If all is well the midwife will follow your lead during labour.
  • Afterbirth considerations. It might seem strange, but you need to think about this. Do you have a specific desire for someone (like your birth partner) to cut the umbilical cord? If you do, then jot it down in your birth plan - it gives the midwife a steer.
  • Skin-to-skin contact. Many mothers want their baby to be placed on them as soon as they are delivered; if so, you should specify this in your birth plan. Often the midwife will want to check your baby over before placing them on you, but you might feel strongly otherwise.
  • Breastfeeding or formula feeding. It is a good idea to make it clear in your birth plan which you would prefer.
  • Specific needs. These could be anything from religious beliefs to dietary requirements or even allergies. The more information you can give, the clearer the midwife can be about the care they are giving you.
  • C-Section. In your birth plan you should consider how you would like a possible caesarean to play out. For example, do you want your partner to stay with you during surgery?

What if my birth plan changes?

It is perfectly natural and probably likely that your ideal birth plan might change during labour. Just because you have written something in your birth plan does not mean you are committed to that and that alone. Some women decide ahead of time that they do not want any pain relief during labour and clearly state this, but it’s understandable (and very common) to change your mind. As much as possible, your healthcare professional will want you and your baby to be safe and comfortable, so do not worry about your birth plan if things happen to change on the day.


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