What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is a way for you to tell your healthcare team what kind of labour you’d like, what you want to happen and what you want to avoid. Your birth plan can cover anything about labour and birth that is important to you.
Your plan is personal to you. It will depend on what you want, your medical history, your circumstances and what is available at your maternity service.
You don’t have to write your birth plan on a special form, although some hospitals may have one you can use. You can just use a sheet of paper or NHS Choices have a simple birth plan that you can download and fill in.
Do I have to write a birth plan?
You don't have to write a birth plan. If you do decide to write one, your midwife can help you. They will be able to:
- answer your questions about what happens in labour
- tell you more about what facilities are available in your area
- help you work out what your preferences and priorities are.
What should l include in my birth plan?
You may want to include things such as:
- who you want as your birth partner
- where you want to give birth
- what positions you’d like to use during labour
- what type of pain relief you want to use during labour
- if you would like any music playing while you give birth
- how you would like to deliver the placenta
- how you would like to feed your baby after birth
- if you’d like any special facilities, such as a birthing pool
- what your preferences are about having skin-to-skin time with your baby and delayed cord clamping
- If you have any special requirements, such as needing a sign language interpreter or you would like certain religious customs to be observed.
After you’ve made your birth plan, it’s a good idea to share it with your birth partner. They will be able to support you better if they know more about what you want. It also helps to talk through it with your midwife.
If you’re having a caesarean section
There are some things you can add to your birth plan if you’re having a planned c-section. For example, you may want the screen lowered, or you may not want a screen at all, so you can see your baby being born. Find out more about preparing for a caesarean section.
Vitamin K for newborns
After your baby is born, you’ll be offered an injection of vitamin K for them. This is recommended to help prevent a rare bleeding disorder called Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding.
Your midwife will talk to you about this injection during your pregnancy. If you don’t want your baby to have an injection, they can have vitamin K by mouth instead, but they’ll need more doses. Your midwife can give you more information and you can include your preference in your birth plan.
Delayed cord clamping
NICE guidance recommends that the umbilical cord, which links your placenta to the baby, is not clamped and cut until at least 1–5 minutes after you give birth. This allows the blood from the placenta to continue being transferred to the baby even after they are born, which helps with their growth and development.
Delayed cord clamping should be practised everywhere, but you should still include this in your birth plan.
What happens after I make my birth plan?
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan during pregnancy or labour. You need to be flexible and be prepared to do things differently from what you wanted. For example, certain facilities may not be available on the day or there may be complications.
You can talk to your midwife about what could happen in labour and include your preferences in your birth plan, but don’t worry too much about trying to include everything. Your maternity team should involve you (or your birth partner if necessary) in any decisions that need to be made on the day to make sure your baby is delivered safely.
Changing your mind
You can change your mind about your wishes for labour and birth at any time, even during labour if you want to. For example, you may find on the day that you don't want a water birth or that you do want gas and air after all.
This part of labour can sometimes last a long time. This page explains what the latent phase of labour is and how to get through it as comfortably as possible.
In the diary of a third pregnancy our diarist tries to capture the pain and magic of the birth of her son.
Hypnobirthing is a method of pain management that can be used during labour and birth. It involves using a mixture of visualisation, relaxation and deep breathing techniques.
You might like to consider giving birth at home for a more relaxed experience in familiar surroundings. Find out whether this is the right option for you.
Are you thinking about having a water birth? Find out about the advantages and disadvantages of giving birth in the water, what to wear and what the pain relief options are.
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.
If your waters break naturally, you may feel a slow trickle or a sudden gush of fluid that you can’t stop. Your waters may break before you go to hospital but are more likely to break during labour.
Braxton Hicks contractions are the body’s way of preparing for labour, but if you have them it doesn’t mean your labour has started. Here, we explain more about Braxton Hicks.
If you’re feeling a bit anxious about giving birth, there are things you can do that may help. Here’s some helpful advice from mums who’ve been there.
The ideal position for your baby to be in for labour and birth is head down, their back towards the front of your stomach.
At the end of your pregnancy, you may have some signs that your baby will arrive very soon, even though you may not go into labour for a little while yet.
The membrane sweep is a drug-free way of helping to bring on labour when you are going past your due date.
NHS Choices. What happens straight after the birth? https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/what-happens-straight-after-the-birth/#vitamin-k-for-newborn-babies (Page last reviewed: 07/01/2019 Next review due: 07/01/2022)
NICE (2014). Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies. National Institute for health and care excellence https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190Hide details
ℹLast reviewed on June 5th, 2019. Next review date June 5th, 2022.