Think of your birth plan less like an instruction manual, and more like a wishlist. While there’s no harm in putting your desires to paper, remember you’re not writing a prescription for the hospital staff. And there’s no need to – because you and your doctors share the same goal; a healthy mum and a peachy bub.
If things stray from the plan (as childbirth sometimes does) keeping an open mind will help you hit that goal. So to kick off the conversation between you and your support team, we’ve put together a quick birth plan guide. Understand the do’s and don’ts for coming up with a flexible plan, for a positive birth experience.
- Reconsider the online templates. While you can use them as a guide, writing your own birth plan means you’ll only include the stuff that’s really important to you.
- Get informed. Before you put pen to paper, make sure you’ve done your homework. Attend your birthing classes, read up, or chat to other mamas. Exposing yourself to different birthing options means you’ll make more informed decisions when it comes to things like pain management or interventions.
- Include your VIPs. From your partner to your obstetrician or midwife, include the names and numbers of the people you want in the delivery room at the top of your plan.
- List your medical history. This one’s important. Although it will be in your medical record and on your hospital charts, if you’ve had prior pregnancies and deliveries, or are suffering from a pregnancy-related health issue such as gestational diabetes or pelvic girdle pain, you can outline it in your plan. Same goes for any other considerations that might affect which medications you can receive, such as any allergies.
- Outline your labour wishlist. Stick to dot points as you break down your requests for labour and delivery. Try to keep things brief as you address the environment, pain relief, preferred positions, assisted delivery and your umbilical cord. Are you bringing along any props like a birthing stool? Would you like to donate your cord blood?
- Outline your postnatal wishlist. Check out the hospital policy for how your baby will be looked after straight after they’re born. Most facilities will provide skin-to-skin contact right away. Do you want to delay the routine care (like measurements) until after your first feed? Does ibuprofen make you nauseous? List it.
- Get personal. If there’s a specific reason you want to avoid something in labour, explain it. This will help the staff understand your unique needs. For example; ‘Please don’t forget to invite my husband into the operating room if I need a c-section. This happened with our first child.’
READ MORE: Childbirth explained
- Do not make a list of demands. Because your baby won’t follow your delivery demands, neither will the people tasked with its safe arrival. Though thankfully (unlike your baby) the hospital staff will be willing to tell you why. Favouring a wishlist over a list of demands will help to keep the conversation open with your doctor or midwife.
- Do not write in absolutes. Don’t limit your options for changing plans if you need to. Some women will write ‘I don’t want to be sped up in labour’. But if you’re still two centimetres at six hours, you might want a nudge in the right direction. Try; ‘I am planning a natural labour. I will transition to prostaglandin only if necessary.’
- Do not get too attached. Plans change; babies slow down, wiggle to breech or need to get out ASAP. Remember that despite the best laid plans, you may just need to go with the flow.
Print off your birth plan and take it along to your next antenatal appointment to get the conversation rolling. Chat to your doctor or midwife about your fears, and they’ll help you come up with plans to address them. And don’t forget to share the plan with your partner, or whoever you’ll have with you as your birthing advocate. That way, they’ll be able to take their copy to the hospital and remind the staff of your wishlist while you focus on getting through those contractions.