Well, in a nutshell, it’s a list of your wishes for during and after labour, from everything to where you’d prefer to give birth to whether or not you’d like pain relief.
You don’t have to make one, of course, it’s entirely up to you. But they can be a great way of not only helping you feel a bit more empowered about what’s to come, but also get a better understanding of all the choices available to you.
The key thing when writing a birth plan is not to get overwhelmed. Thanks to Google and social media, there’s a lot of information out there. Just keep it simple and right for you. Here, we offer some basic birth plan ideas on how to do just that.
1. Download a template
Unsure how to write a birth plan? We’d suggest downloading the birth plan template on the NHS website. It’s laid out like a form with sections including: where to give birth, positions for labour and birth and skin-to-skin contact with baby. At the very least, it’ll give you an overview of the kinds of things you could consider. You could fill the entire form in or just extract the information you need and put together your own version. Lots of mums just opt for one page of text.
However you decide to present your plan, it’s a good idea to discuss it with your partner or birthing companion first. When the big day comes, it's important to focus on yourself and baby, and so it will be helpful for your birthing partner to know your wishes, so they can be on hand to help make decisions with you and potentially for you.
Talking your birth plan ideas through with your midwife is also recommended. Babies can be unpredictable, and they’ll help reassure you about what to expect if things don’t go to plan (see 3. for more).
2. Include any special circumstances
When putting together your birth plan, it’s important to include your medical history and any special circumstances your midwife should be aware of. Although this information will be in your notes, a reminder definitely won’t hurt. For example, one mum we know who’s a regular WaterWipes user, tested positive for the common bacterium Group B strep during her third trimester. While usually harmless, it can in rare cases cause serious illness in newborns, so the mum needed intravenous antibiotics during labour. Having it front and centre on her birth plan gave her peace of mind that it wouldn’t be overlooked.
3. Be prepared to be flexible
Some mums will have the pregnancy they dreamed of, but for others it won’t go according to plan. With this in mind, it’s important that you’re prepared to be flexible when the time comes to say hello to baby. You may need a caesarean, for example. Or the birthing pool you had your heart set on may not be available. Ironically, writing a birth plan will help you with this. It’ll give you a greater understanding of each stage of labour and why your midwife might not be able to completely comply with your wishes.
If things don’t go quite how you were hoping, try not to dwell on it. The important thing is that baby is delivered safely and you are healthy. Then your new adventure can truly begin.
1) NHS, How to make a birth plan, https://www.nhs.uk, last accessed 6 August 2020
2) NHS, What are the risks of group B streptococcus (GBS) infection during pregnancy?, https://www.nhs.uk, last accessed 6 August 2020