Making your birth plan

At some stage during pregnancy, it’s good to think about where you'd like to give birth, who will be your birth partner and what you would prefer to happen during labour and delivery.

If you write down your thoughts in a birth plan, it's easy to share it with the people looking after you.

Your birth plan can cover anything about labour and birth that is important to you. This can include who you want to be with you, your choice of pain relief and whether you'd like to breastfeed straight after the birth.

You don't have to write on a special form, although some hospitals may have one you can use. A sheet of paper is also fine. There's no right or wrong way to write a birth plan and you can go through it with your midwife, who will be able to make suggestions.

If you find it difficult, ask your birth partner or a friend to make some notes for you. Your midwife will be able to answer any questions and will be able to write down your wishes on the notes.

Things to think about

You might like to think about the following:

- Who will be with me during labour?

- Do I want to bring music or have the lights dimmed?

- Do I want to move around during labour if possible?

- Do I want to use any equipment, such as a TENS machine, gas and air or an exercise ball?

- Do I want to try being in water during labour?

- What other pain relief might I want?

- How do I feel about medical help in the birth, such as forceps, ventouse and episiotomy?

- Do I want to try to breastfeed straight after the birth?

- Do I want to deliver the placenta naturally or have an injection to make it come away quickly?

- Do I want my baby to have vitamin K after birth?

- Do I want the baby to be delivered directly onto me at birth or would I prefer her/him to be wrapped in blankets before.

- Do you want the birth partner to cut the cord?

Once you've written your birth plan you should:

  • Talk to your midwife about your birth plan and ask their advice about what you've written.
  • Talk it through with your birth partner (or birth partners) and make sure they know that you might change your mind on the day!
  • Have more than one copy so you can give one to your birth partner and another to the midwife.
  • Prepare to be flexible if things change during your labour.
  • Keep your birth plan short and clear so that medical staff can read it quickly if they are in a hurry.

Who can I choose to be my birth partner?

Having the right person with you when you have your baby can lower your stress levels, which may help reduce the pain you feel.

Your birth partner can be your partner, if you have one, or a relative or friend. Some women hire a doula, who is a woman who has lots of experience of childbirth (but not necessarily medical training) and who gives emotional and practical support before, during and after childbirth.

If you're having your baby in a hospital or birth centre, there may be a limit on the number of people you can have in the labour room with you. Ask your midwife about this during your pregnancy.

Whoever you choose to be your birth partner, make sure they know what's on your birth plan. Talk to them as well about ways you'd like them to help during labour and birth - rubbing your back during contractions and encouraging you with your breathing, for example.

It's fine to change your mind about your birth plan!

A birth plan is not fixed - it's about what you think you might prefer.

You might find on the day that you don't fancy a water birth or that you do want gas and air after all. Pain relief is one thing lots of women change their minds about.

Nobody can tell you for sure that you'll have the birth you want. No one knows how your labour will go. Your health and that of your baby will always come first. However, your midwife will try hard to follow your wishes as much as possible.

Sources

1. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2008) Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman, London NICE, 2008 (http://publications.nice.org.uk/antenatal-care-cg62/guidance)

2. Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J (2012) Mayes’ midwifery, 14th edition, London Balliere Tindall

3. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2006) Routine postnatal care of women and their babies, London NICE, 2006 http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/pdf/CG37NICEguideline.pdf 

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Last reviewed on April 1st, 2015. Next review date April 1st, 2018.

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