How to Write a Birth Plan

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Depending on where you live in the world, you may be given the opportunity to write your birth plan. Your birth plan is a list of choices that you have made about your birth- such as place of birth (birth centre, labour ward or home) and options for pain management.

I often say to clients that it's worth thinking of 'preferences' rather than a 'plan', so there can be an attitude of flexibility rather than getting too stuck on things panning out a particular way.

The truth is that no matter how much someone prepares for birth, they are not ultimately in control. Control is something in our modern world that we think we have, and can get attached to.

It's worth knowing more about your options in your particular place of birth. For example if you wish to have an epidural, you will either go to the labour ward straightaway or transfer there from the birth centre. You should be able to find your provider's information online.

Things to consider before writing your plan:

  • Use the exercise of writing your birth plan as a way to connect with yourself and your baby.
  • Take yourself somewhere calm and quiet with a journal.
  • Even if you have strong feelings about wanting your birth to go in a certain direction, it's worth addressing how you feel about different options e.g. epidurals, instrumental deliveries, caesarean sections and breech deliveries.
  • Spend as long as you need to write it out, and then take the opportunity to edit it down.  It will be far easier for your birthing team to take in the most important points if it's short. It's worth highlighting the most important parts too.

Things to consider:

Place of birth: Birth centre/ labour ward/ home

Who’s attending the birth: partner/ doula/ mother/ friend

How do you feel about student midwives or other observers being in the room?

Is there anything in the environment that you would like such as soft lighting, music or minimal chatter?

Would you like to be as active as possible and use different positions such as being upright, forward leaning, squatting etc for an active birth?

Would you like to use hypnobirthing imagery and language?

Regarding pain relief: would you like gas and air, a TENS machine, homeopathic remedies, medication or an epidural?

Would you like to have massage by your partner/doula

Use of the birth pool for relaxation and to progress labour- perhaps to deliver in the pool or come out of the pool to deliver?

Are you happy to be monitored without being asked each time? You can give permission for this so that you aren't interrupted whilst labouring.

Regarding internal exams- you might prefer to only have them if necessary, or decline them at all, or not be told how far dilated you are.

When it comes to delivering your baby (known as the second stage of labour), you may want to be directed to push, or you may want to listen to your own body's cues at this time.

 Once you have given birth to your baby, you will also need to deliver the placenta (known as the third stage of labour). Do you wish to have a physiological third stage i.e natural delivery, or an injection?

Would you like to have delay cord clamping (ie wait until it stops pulsating?)

Are you keen to see the placenta? Do you need to keep it for any reason? eg encapsulation, smoothies, cord bank.

Let me know how you get on and if there's anything else you would like to add to your birth plan. These free icons from the Positive Birth Book are great for ease of understanding.