The thought of writing a Birth Plan can seem daunting, especially if this is your first pregnancy. You may find it difficult to know what you will/won't want to happen as you have never experienced anything like this before. Alternatively, you may feel very strongly about how you want your labour to progress and be quite specific and detailed in your notes.
Basically, a Birth Plan is a way of communicating with the midwives and doctors who care for you in labour. It tells them about the kind of labour you would like to have, what you want to happen and what you definitely hope to avoid. Of course you need to take into consideration that your plans may have to change during your labour, as things may not go according to your original plan. The midwives will discuss changes with you that are in the best interests of you and your baby as your labour progresses.
Your regular midwife will be the best person to run your birth plan by, as she will be able to advise you on any aspects that are most relevant to where you give birth.
It's usually a good idea to start putting together your plan from about 34 weeks into your pregnancy. This way if the little one does decide to come earlier than expected you are all prepared.
What to include in your plan:
Of course, everybody will have different levels of importance on different aspects of their labour. Here is a list of headings that will get you started and on the right track. You certainly don't have to use them all. Perhaps only a few are really important to you.
Birth companion - Write down who you want to be with you in labour. Do you want this person to stay with you all the time, or are there certain procedures or stages in labour when you'd prefer him or her to leave the room?
Positions for labour and birth - Mention which positions you would like to use during labour and for your baby's delivery. Also say how active you would like to be: would you like to remain upright and mobile for as long as possible, for example, or would you prefer to be in bed.
Pain relief - Say what kinds pain relief you want to use, if any, and in what order (for example, you might prefer to use gas and air before a shot of pethidine).
Birthing pool - If your hospital or midwife-led unit has a birthing pool or if you are hiring one to use at home, write down whether you want to use it purely for pain relief or to give birth in also.
Monitoring your baby's heart rate - Say how you want your baby to be monitored during labour. Write down whether you would like your midwife to listen to your baby's heart intermittently using a hand-held device (Sonicaid) or whether you want electronic monitoring using a belt strapped round your waist.
Assisted delivery - You might want to express a preference for forceps or ventouse if, at the end of labour, you need some help to deliver your baby.
Delivery position - Say whether you want to give birth lying on the bed, or kneeling, standing or squatting.
Third stage (delivery of the placenta) - You can choose to have an injection to speed up the delivery of the placenta, or you might want to say that you prefer to have a natural third stage without drugs.
Feeding the baby - Be clear about whether you want to breast or bottle feed. Also be clear about whether your breastfed baby is allowed to have any bottles. If you definitely don't want her to have bottles, say so.
Students - Make it clear whether you agree to having student nurses, midwives or doctors present. However, remember that there is a real shortage of midwives and they can only learn by being present at births.
Special needs - You may have very special needs that you want to mention in your birth plan. If you have a disability, write about the kind of help you will need in labour. Say whether there is any special equipment that would assist you.
Religious needs - If you have particular religious needs, make sure that you include these. It might be important for you to have certain rituals carried out when your baby is born. Or you might require a special diet during your hospital stay.
And finally - There's no need to go into too much detail or write a lengthy essay on your preferences. Instead, try and keep it simple. This will help the midwife to easily locate information at a glance. Write or type it clearly and try to keep it within one page.
It's also a good idea to keep a copy of your birth plan with you as well as in your packed hospital bag.