What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is a guide created by you to communicate your wishes to the doctors and midwives who take care of you during your pregnancy. It informs about the birth and labor type you'd like to have, what you want to happen and what you want to avoid.
You should not set your birth plan in stone. It needs to be flexible. It must acknowledge that things may not work as you want. Write a birth plan that doesn't tie your midwives hand and allow her to perform the necessary actions if any complications arise. Your birth plan is a personal matter for you, so it should reflect your preferences and wishes.
How do I start to write my birth plan?
To begin with, gather as much information about pregnancy as you can before you start:
Start attending your local antenatal classes. Your midwife should offer you classes at your hospital. There are also private classes that you can join through NCT.
Converse with mothers who have had a hospital birth, or with the mother who delivered their babies at the birth center. If you're planning for a homebirth, talk to the parents who have gone through it themselves. It can provide you with a brief idea about how easy and difficult it was for them to get the type of care they expected.
Talk to your partner or the person who will become your birth partner. Make sure that they completely understand your wishes and the type of labor and birth you would like to have.
Once you have done enough research about your choice and spoken to a few people, you can jot down your wishes on a piece of paper and later tidy them. Do remember to keep your birth plan in maternity notes, so it's easy to find it when you go into your labor.
What can I include in my birth plan?
Here are some headings that you may want to include in your birth plan, use the ones you find important to you. You can add more to them for anything that's missing.
Choose your birth partner:
Write the name of the person you want present during labor. Write down whether you want this person with you all the time, or there are certain stages when you would want him/her to leave the room.
Positions for labor and birth
Mention which position you'd like to prefer during birth. You can also mention how engaging you'd want to be. Would you prefer remaining upright or mobile for as long as possible? Or perhaps you'd prefer to be upright in the bed with your back popped with pillows? Or you can specify that you want to lie on your side, be kneeling on all fours or squatting or standing while delivering.
You can write about what kinds of pain relief you want if any, in what order. For instance, you can prefer trying pethidine before epidural. You can also wish for breathing, water, relaxation, massage, or a TENS machine as well as medical pain relief. And if there are any types of pain relief you want to avoid, make sure to write them down.
If your hospital or midwife-led unit has the option of a waterbirth, or if you want to hire one for home use, make sure to write whether you want it for pain relief or, or both.
Your hospital may have wall bars, mats, birth walls, or beanbags. You can ask for their use during labor. If you need any other equipment, you can bring them from your home.
Monitor baby's heart rate:
If you are going through a simple delivery, your midwife will monitor your baby's heartbeat at irregular intervals, about every 10-15 minutes. Write down if you want intermittent monitoring or continuous electronic monitoring (CEM).
You can express your preference for forceps or ventouse if, at the end of labor, you may need some help giving birth. Or you just can choose what your doctor prefers when the time comes.
The third stage:
If you are delivering at the hospital, it's likely that you'll be offered an injection to accelerate the delivery of the placenta, it's called a managed third stage. Either you can choose to have the injection to speed up the delivery or prefer having a natural third stage without any drugs. If you want someone special, like your grandfather or spouse, to cut the umbilical cord, write so. A birth plan can include a delayed cord clamping as well.
You can ask for your newborn baby to be placed directly on your tummy right after birth.
I've my plan ready, what's now?
After creating your birth plan, show it to your midwife and ask her to go through it during any of your prenatal appointments, before 36 weeks.
Discussing your plan with your midwife can give you the opportunity to ask questions and explore more about what can happen during your labor.