A birth plan is a way for you to specify to your healthcare team what you would like to happen during your labour and birth. Your midwife may be able to help when writing one, and by discussing a birth plan with them, it may offer more of a chance for you to ask questions and find out more about what happens in labour. It also provides an opportunity for the midwife to get to know you and your priorities better.
While you don't have to create a birth plan, it’s a great way to get you thinking about, and possibly discussing some things in depth with your partner, family and friends that you may not have previously considered.
What should I include in my birth plan?
It’s important to remember that this plan is personal to you. It should focus on what you want, your medical history, your circumstances and what is available at your maternity service. You can download a birth plan template from the NHS to fill in and save. Here are some things to consider when writing your plan:
- Who you want as your birth partner
- Where you want to give birth, and if you have any special requirements like a birthing pool
- What positions you’d like to use during labour
- What type of pain relief you want to use during labour
- If you’d like music playing while you give birth
- How you’d like to deliver the placenta
- How you’d like to feed your baby after giving birth
- Your preferences for skin-to-skin contact and delayed cord clamping
Your midwife may advise against some of your preferences, especially if you’re high risk or experience a medical emergency during labour and delivery. Your birth plan doesn’t have to be set in stone, rather a guide to help reduce any anxieties you may have about your birth experience.
If you’re having a planned caesarean section (c-section) there are some things you can add to your birth plan, such as:
- Choosing to be awake during the procedure
- Having clear drapes set up so you can watch as your baby emerges
- Having one arm left free of monitors and IVs so you can hold your baby
- Choosing to breastfeed as soon as possible
Even if you know you don't want a medical induction or C-section, it's important to prepare for unexpected events by listing your preferences regarding those processes, as, sometimes things don’t go as planned during pregnancy and labour. You should be flexible and prepared to do things that might be different from your initial plan. Remember that you can change your mind about your wishes for labour at any time, even while you’re giving birth.
Final thoughts from Kami:
Some people choose not to write a birth plan. If the thought of one makes you feel anxious or overwhelmed, or if you feel like having a written document will make it harder for you to be flexible in the moment or possibly be disappointed if something happens differently, talk to your midwife about other ways you can feel prepared without a written birth plan.
Putting together a birth plan ahead of time though might help you feel more prepared for labour and delivery and empower you to express your preferences.