Labour & Birth
Making a birth plan
A birth plan is a written plan of what you would ideally like to happen at the birth of your baby, including preferences for pain relief, who you would like to be present and what kind of birth you would like to attempt. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it can be helpful for your midwife or the obstetrician to understand more about how you are approaching the birth.
Once you are in the throes of labour and birth, there is little time for conversation. However, whether you are having your baby privately and you have had a chance to get to know the care team who will be on hand at the birth, or you are being cared for by a team of midwives attached to your local hospital, writing down a birth plan is helpful for you as much as for them.
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is an overview of who you are and what kinds of concerns, needs and aims you have for the management of your labour and the birth of your baby.
As people react differently to giving birth – some worry about pain, others are self-conscious about privacy – a birth plan is usually encouraged by the team of staff who will oversee your labour.
There are various things to consider when writing your plan, and hopefully going to antenatal classes will help you understand the options better, so there is no need to write it until you are almost due.
Also bear in mind, that this is ‘best case scenario’. You may not desire pain relief or a caesarean, but you should be prepared to make a change of decision should an emergency arise. The team are there to help you through what will most likely be a safe and happy birth, but they are also trained to save lives if an emergency arises.
What should I include in my birth plan?
• Basic details
Your full name (note the name you like to be called by), your doctor and midwife details and/or your hospital number. Your file should already include emergency contact telephone numbers, but you could add those in here just to be sure.
• Birthing partner
Put down the name of your birthing partner and, if this is not the father of the baby, include any details the care team might need to know. If for example it is your mother, sister or a friend.
• Getting through labour
Note down what kinds of pain relief you would like to try and the ones you’d rather avoid. Don’t worry that this means if you have said ‘no epidural’ that you will be automatically refused one should you suddenly decide to opt for one during labour. It’s just helpful for the team to know what options you’d rather be offered in an ideal situation. Also include details such as a preference to be in the pool for pain relief, or that you will want to be ‘active’ – walking about, squatting, and doing various other active movements to manage the pain and the progress of the birth, rather than laying down on a bed.
• Preferences for monitoring the baby
During labour, the midwife might want to put a belt monitor around your tummy to keep tabs on your baby’s heartbeat. This is fine, except sometimes they get fitted then the midwife is called away and you are left attached to the monitor for hours. Make it clear if you want to stay mobile or that you only wish for such monitoring to be done for the minimum time required.
• Giving birth
If you would like to try giving birth in a pool, or in a position such as ‘all fours’, then do flag this up, otherwise your team may encourage you to lay back on the bed purely because this is routine.
• When the baby is born
State if you want the baby to be put on your breast or in your arms immediately. More and more hospitals do this routinely now, but it is worth stressing that you want this immediate bond, if that is the case. It is important to understand that in medical emergencies the team may need to run some urgent medical checks on your baby first, but routinely this can wait a few minutes.
• Other notes
Include other preferences such as being vegetarian, desiring a single room etc, should your stay be longer than a few hours.
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