Writing a birth plan is a way to set out your wishes in advance of giving birth. Birth plans are optional but many mums find that writing one gives them confidence on the day, and provides a chance to consider how they would want different scenarios to be dealt with in advance of the birth, saving them from making important decisions under pressure.
Your birth plan can take any format you want, however remember that medical staff will need to read and understand it quickly, so a bullet point format is ideal. Use colours or bold text to highlight the key points which you feel most strongly about and want to draw attention to. If you’re stuck, there are birth plan templates available online, but feel free to adapt any template you use to match your own views; a birth plan is a very personal document and should be specific to you.
Start writing your birth plan around the beginning of your third trimester. It’s a good idea to use a computer to write it so that you can review and edit your plan freely. When you first start writing it there may be things you still don’t understand, like what kinds of pain relief you might be offered, but this will be covered in your antenatal classes, so don’t worry if there are some things you’re not sure how to fill in right away. Starting your draft plan before your antenatal classes begin is a great idea because you will know what questions you need to ask at the classes.
The main points you should consider including in your birth plan are: your birth partner(s), pain relief, monitoring, birthing positions, use of birthing pool, your preferences if a caesarean is required, delivery of the placenta, skin to skin contact, cutting the cord, Vitamin K (oral, injection or none), discovering the gender of the baby yourself, feeding (breast or bottle). You should also add anything else you feel is relevant; there are no hard and fast rules on what you can include and, if it’s important to you, it should be there. Remember to include information about special circumstances, for example religious requirements, in your birth plan.
Be aware that, no matter how detailed your birth plan is, sometimes things don’t go to plan and you may need to be flexible and take advice from doctors and midwives to ensure you and your baby receive the best possible care should an unexpected complication arise. It may be a good idea to write a sentence acknowledging this at the end of your birth plan.
Talk to your midwife about your birth plan, as she will be able to advise you and answer any questions you have. It’s a good idea to let your midwife review a draft of your plan so that if you’ve missed anything she can help you. When you’re completely happy with your birth plan, put it in your folder with your maternity notes so you don’t lose it and it’s with you when you go into hospital.
More ways to prepare for birth:
- Homebirth 101
- 10 Wackiest Places Mums Have Actually Given Birth
- Do These Natural Methods Really Help Induce Labour?