From the moment you learn you’re pregnant and determine a due date, you’ll likely start thinking about the type of birth you would like. This is where a birth plan comes in handy…
What is a birth plan?
As you approach the end of your pregnancy, it’s really important to think about how you would like the birth of your child to be and to write a plan. A birth plan is an easy way of conveying your wishes to everyone involved in your baby’s birth about the kind of labour you would like to have, what you want to happen in certain circumstances, and what you hope to avoid.
Chances are that you’re not prepared for the decisions and choices you need to make for birth. And even if you are, remembering them while in the throes of labour or preparing for surgery is virtually impossible. Writing down a plan of exactly what you wish for during your labour and the birth of your baby will help you and others prepare, as well as understand the consequences of any decisions you make regarding your journey.
Why do I need a birth plan?
A written plan will help tremendously if you look at it as a conversation with everyone involved in your journey – including your partner in the compilation of this birth plan is always a good idea!
“A birth plan is an easy way of conveying your wishes to everyone involved in your baby’s birth about the kind of labour you would like to have, what you want to happen in certain circumstances and what you hope to avoid.”
A good birth plan:
- helps you make choices in advance that match your hopes and desires for your baby’s birth;
- helps you anticipate what’s going to happen;
- eases birth fears, giving you peace of mind on the big day;
- helps to eliminate conflict or disappointment during labour because you have ascertained beforehand what can and cannot be accommodated;
- assists parents to communicate their needs and wishes with healthcare providers, nurses, nursing assistants and doulas.
How detailed should my birth plan be?
I advise my clients to have what I call a “discussion document” and a separate birth plan. Remember, busy nursing personnel do not have time to read through pages and pages of writing. A lot of clients prefer a visual birth plan – it’s quick and easy to understand and it conveys exactly what they want. If you lean more towards words, keep your birth plan short and concise – try to keep it to a one-pager, maximum two pages.
You can jot down all your questions and concerns in your discussion document that you can go through with your healthcare provider and hospital when the opportunity arises.
What is the most important part of a birth plan?
The most important part of the birth plan is what you think is the most important – every mother will have a different answer.
What can I include in my birth plan?
Your birth plan is unique to your personal preferences and can include the following:
- Type of birth – vaginal, C-section or VBAC, water birth, home birth, lotus birth, hypnobirthing, etc.
- Who you want with you in the birthing room
- What sort of pain management you want – do you want a spinal block or epidural?
- Ambience – do you want candles, music, etc.
A birth plan can also be divided into sections: what you want during the labour, birth and post-birth.
What if my healthcare provider or partner do not see the need for a birth plan?
Communication is of the utmost importance, as is conveying why you feel the need to have a written preparation for birth and why you have indicated certain conditions in it. If you tell your partner that being on the same page with them (literally!) regarding the birth of your baby is extremely important to you, chances are that they will accommodate you.
No matter what, you should never be pushed or talked into anything, by anyone. If situations arise, take the time to talk about your options, risks, and make informed decisions. If your healthcare provider does not agree with a non-negotiable part of your birth plan, you may want to reassess your relationship with them. If not, you’re opening yourself up to having to make a difficult decision during labour – when you are at your most vulnerable.
Can I change my mind?
Yes! Birth plans are not cast in stone. You are allowed to change your mind. Two hours before I went into (premature!) labour with my second son I was still adding and changing some things in my plan. You also learn as your pregnancy progresses. What you wanted at 16 weeks pregnant may not be the same as at 32 weeks, and that’s okay. If you change your plan and you’ve already supplied it to your provider and/or hospital staff, make sure that it’s updated with any changes in your plan.
If there is one thing all of us can be certain of, it’s that life never goes exactly as planned. Chances are you’ll have to compromise on things you thought were non-negotiable and you may surprise yourself by suddenly feeling very strongly about something you didn’t seem to care about before.
Be prepared but also be prepared not to be prepared. This is labour and birth. Nothing is guaranteed, nothing can be controlled – and yes, there are surprises, even with scheduled C-sections. The most important thing is that you feel heard and validated and that your whole team is on par with your heart’s desire for your baby’s birth.
Download a free birth plan here.