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 it is helpful to go through it with your midwife, who will be able to let you know what is available at your place of birth.

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.

You might like to think about the following:

  • Who will be with you during labour?

  • Would you like to bring music?

  • Would you like to move around during labour if possible?

  • Would you like to use equipment for pain relief, such as a TENS machine, gas and air or an exercise ball?

  • Would you like want to try being in water during labour?

  • How do you feel about medical help during the birth, such as forceps, ventouse and episiotomy?

  • Do you want to try to breastfeed straight after the birth?

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

  • Do you want my baby to have vitamin K after birth? This is offered to all babies as it prevents a rare but serious blood disorder.

  • Do you want to check whether the unit practices Delayed Cord Clamping, which has been shown to be better for your baby?

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.

Read more about labour and birth

  • A happy mother with her newborn baby.

    Delayed cord clamping (DCC)

    Cutting the cord immediately after the birth has been routine practice for 50-60 years but more recently research is showing that it is not good for the baby.

  • Pregnant woman holding her back.

    What to expect when your waters break

    Your waters can break before you go in to hospital but they are more likely to break during labour, or they can even be broken for you by your midwife to speed up your labour (a process known as artificial rupture of membranes).

  • 5 positive ways to prepare for labour

    Manage your anxieties about giving birth, with some helpful advice from mums who’ve been there.

  • Pregnant woman sitting on exercise mat.

    Getting your baby into the best birth position

    The ideal position for your baby to be in for labour and birth is head down, their back towards the front of your stomach.

  • Pregnant woman being checked over by doctor.

    What is a membrane sweep?

    The membrane sweep is a drug-free way of helping to bring on labour when you are going past your due date.

  • Woman in hospital bed ready to give birth.

    What to do when labour starts

    The moment has arrived. Your contractions are regular and building up, and your baby is really on his or her way…

  • Woman holding her back in discomfort.

    Symptoms of labour

    From contractions to your waters breaking, these are the typical signs that your body is getting ready for labour.

  • A plate of spicy curry.

    Can anything bring labour on?

    The waiting game can be torturous. Your due date has been and gone, you feel the size of a mothership and you’re oh so tired of waddling to the loo every five minutes.

  • Woman in labour wearing gas and air breathing mask.

    Pain relief in labour and birth

    There are quite a few pain-relief options available and it’s good to know what they are before you go into labour.

  • Woman lying in hospital bed ready to give birth.

    Assisted birth

    Even if labour has got off to a good start, it can sometimes slow down or problems may arise. If so, you may need some help to deliver your baby safely. These procedures are called ‘interventions’.

  • caesarean section

    Caesarean section

    A caesarean section is an operation where an obstetrician makes a cut in your stomach and womb and lifts your baby out through it.

  • Woman lying on hospital bed ready to give birth.

    Induction of labour - information about having labour induced

    In most pregnancies, labour will start on its own but in some situations your labour may need to be started artificially. This is called 'induction’ of labour.

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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