What is a good Birth Plan?

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Birth Plan Tips

Can you plan a birth?

Simple answer is ‘no’, you can’t. But you can definitely have a say over how you would like the journey to be.

In its simplest form, a birth plan is a way for you to communicate your ideal birthing scenario with your birthing team, be it midwives, doctors or even your loved ones. It tells them what kind of labour you are after, and the birth you’d like to have. It can tell them what you want to happen, and what you want to avoid in a certain scenario.

Writing one can help women feel more prepared for their birth. It is a great way of exploring what choices you have, and there are many. It can help you have a more positive birth experience and empower and inform some of your decisions.

There’s no right or wrong way to writing a birth plan. But there are effective and less effective plans. Some women know exactly what they want to happen as soon as they find out they are pregnant. Other mummies-to-be mull over their options until they have crammed so much in, it becomes pages long, making it difficult to see what’s most important to keep in.

Having been a Doula for many years I have seen a lot of birth plans. I think the key to a good one is to keep it short and easy to read. Most effective use about 15-20 bullet points, rather than lengthy sentences. This helps midwives scan the document quickly. Midwives don’t have time to read pages and pages of text.

Our example birth plan

A birth plan is not a binding contract

Remember this is a written understanding between you and your birthing team. They are not a binding contract. All birthing teams will work hard to give you the birth you strive for, but be prepared if medical circumstances mean parts of your plan can’t be carried out.

Child birth is unpredictable and each birthing journey is guaranteed to be different. So make sure you are prepared to be flexible. Don’t look at your plan as ‘set in stone’. Talk to your midwife and be prepared to change your mind at any time as the journey unfolds. The birth plans are flexible and they evolve with the day of birth.

When writing it’s a good idea to think about your environment, who you want with you, your activity during your labour, fetal monitoring, positions during birth, pushing, delivery of your placenta, cutting the cord, medical intervention, pain relief, breastfeeding and baby care.

Remember to keep it short and to the point and print off a few copies!

Below are a number of points you may want to include:

  • I do not wish to have the amniotic membrane ruptured artificially
  • I do not want any vaginal examinations.
  • Freedom to move around and stay active
  • I would like the birth to be as 'hands off' as possible
  • Please offer encouragement rather than medication
  • If any medical intervention is necessary I would like this to be explained clearly and discussed with me.
  • I wish to labour in the pool
  • I would like to be encouraged to breathe the baby out slowly and anything possible done to minimise tearing
  • We do not know the sex of our baby. I wish to find out myself or have my husband tell me.
  • I wish to have a physiological 3rd stage
  • I would like cord clamping to be delayed for 1 hour.
  • I will have immediate skin to skin with baby
  • I would like breastfeeding help immediately after birth
  • No vitamin k injection for my baby
  • Allow vernix to absorb into babies skin
  • I am keeping my placenta. Please follow Placenta Practice’s Placenta Collection Kit for instructions in storing the placenta.

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