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Pregnancy

      Birth plan

      Researching

      What is a birth plan?

      A birth plan is a document that lets midwives, doctors and birth partners know what your delivery preferences are and how you want to be treated during labour. Whether it’s a written birth guide or just a few important things that you’ve discussed with your midwife, a birth plan is there to help you feel prepared for labour, leaving you with more time to focus on getting ready to meet your baby.

      Planning for the kind of birth you want is absolutely your prerogative. After all, this is your birth and your baby. Remember, though, that things can change during your labour for many reasons, and sometimes, the outcome will be different from the one you’d planned for.

      Try to keep an open mind to prepare for your own unique birth experience.   

      Preparing for birth

      You might have a very clear idea of the kind of birth you want. On the other hand, you may only have started thinking about it as you near the end of your pregnancy.

      During labour, all of your focus will be on bringing your little one into the world, and with this in mind, it’s a good idea to write a birth plan, whatever the level of detail. This will help the doctors and midwives who’ll support you to do just that.

      Think about your birth preferences and what alternatives you’d be happy with if things needed to change. For example, if you’re planning to have your little one at home, make sure you have a home birth checklist, but also think about what you’d like to happen in the event you have to go to the hospital. It’s a good idea to keep your birth plan flexible so that you’re as prepared as possible for any eventuality.

      Finally, try writing it down and keeping it on your file, ready for when your labour begins. That way, it will serve as a good guide for what you’d like to happen during labour and those precious first hours following your baby’s birth.

      How to write a birth plan

      Before you start writing your birth plan, there’s a wealth of handy resources for you to use if you need a bit of help. The NHS choices website is full of helpful information about labour and birth and is a great place to start.

      Talk to your midwife and doctor and ask them plenty of questions. They are there to help you prepare for labour, but they’ll also be the ones using your birth plan to ensure that your birth choices are met as far as possible.

      Other parents are a great source of knowledge and experience. They’ve been through this before and will be able to give you some first-hand insights and handy tips. Antenatal classes are another great opportunity to speak with practising midwives and other expectant mothers about their birth preferences.

      However, every birth is different, and the outcomes depend on several different factors (your health and medical history, for example). Remember to do what’s right for you and not compare yourself to others. This is your birth experience, nobody else's.  

      If you’re feeling a tad overwhelmed at the thought of writing a birth plan, take a look at some examples to help you get started. You can also download our downloadable birth plan template for some inspiration.

      Researching

      What is a birth partner?

      A birth partner is a person you choose to be with you as you bring your baby into the world. It’s up to you whether you have a birth partner or not, but if you do, their role is to support you as you give birth. This includes ensuring that your birth plan is followed as far as possible.

      You can choose anyone you like to be your birth partner. A family member, your partner or a friend, it’s your choice entirely. The important thing is that you can rely on them to be the support you need during your labour.

      You can learn more about birth partners here

      What should I include in my birth plan?

      Remember that this is your birth, and there are no set rules for what should be included in your birth plan. Below, you’ll find some ideas about the kinds of things you might want to consider.

      The practical details

      It might seem fairly obvious, but your birth plan needs to contain your practical information, as well as the wishes you have for your birth. Be sure to include your name and, if you’re having one, the name of your birth partner. Also include the name and details of your designated midwife, if you have one.

      Note any wishes regarding your religious beliefs, and provide information about any allergies or dietary requirements you may have. The more information you can give, the clearer the midwife can be about the care they’re giving you.

      Another thing you’ll need to think about ahead of time is where you’re going to give birth. Whether you’re planning to have your baby at your local hospital or at home, specify the location on your birth plan.

      Water birth

      If you want to have a water birth and you’re planning to have your baby at home, you’ll need to think about whether you want to buy or rent a birth pool and collect it in good time so that it’s ready for when you go into labour. If you intend to give birth in a hospital, it’s good to check that they have pools available for you to use, as not all labour wards have them.

      Many women use birth pools during their labour to help them relax and ease the pain of the contractions1.  You may change your mind as things progress. Just do what feels right for you at the time, and your midwife will follow your lead.

      Think about birthing positions you want to try. There are many options, so it’s worth considering what will make you comfortable during labour. Have a chat with your midwife to get some ideas if you need them. 

      Assisted delivery and C-Section

      Sometimes, towards the end of labour, assistance is needed to safely help babies come into the world. This is known as assisted delivery and includes the use of forceps or ventouses2.

      Take some time to familiarise yourself with the possibilities for assisted birth, and note it down if you have any strong feelings or views about the methods used. Keep in mind that your doctor and midwife will advise you at every step of your labour, so that the right decisions are made for you and your baby.

      While you may have your own ideas about how you’d like your baby to be born, sometimes, things don’t go according to plan. That’s why it’s a good idea to know what the potential possibilities are when it comes to giving birth. Having a C section is one of those possibilities. In your birth plan, be clear about whether you’ve chosen to have a C section, and how you might feel if you’re advised to do so. That way, your doctors and midwives can support you in the best way possible.

      Pain relief choices

      Pain relief during your labour is a significant consideration. It might be that you wish to have no pain relief at all. Perhaps you’re clear about wanting an epidural, or you’re open to suggestions as your labour progresses. Whatever your thoughts are, make them clear on your birth plan.

      Remember that your birth plan isn’t set in stone, and things can change depending on the circumstances.

      What will happen after you’ve had your baby?

      When it comes to what happens after the birth of your baby, there are several things to think about. Some examples include:

      • Who will be cutting the umbilical cord? Will this be done by your birth partner or your doctor or midwife?
      • Skin-to-skin contact. Many parents want their baby placed on them as soon as they’re born instead of being immediately checked over by the midwife. If this is something you’d like, specify this in your birth plan so that everyone’s on the same page. 
      • How will you feed your baby? Whether you choose to breastfeed or formula feed, note your intentions in your birth plan.

      Delivering the placenta

      Once your baby is born, there are a couple of options for delivering your placenta.

      You can choose to let the placenta come away from the uterus wall on its own with the help of your contractions. Alternatively, you can have an injection of oxytocin into your thigh to help speed things up3.  Whichever you choose, it’s worth noting this in your birth plan.

      Vitamin K

      Following the birth of your baby, your midwife or doctor will ask if your baby can be given an injection of vitamin K. The purpose of this is to help your baby’s blood to clot4. You can always chat with your midwife about the benefits of vitamin K so that you can make an informed decision, and if you decide that you don’t want your baby to have this injection, then make this clear in your birth plan.

      What if my birth plan changes?

      It’s really common for birth plans to change and evolve during labour. This could be due to the circumstances, medical advice that you’re given, or simply how you feel on the day.

      Your midwives and doctors are there to support you, and they want the best for you and your baby. If your birth plan changes, that’s no problem at all. Just focus on meeting your new baby and starting your exciting parenting journey.

      Have a question about writing your birth plan?

      If you'd like to know more about writing your birth plan and preparing for labour, give one of our friendly experts a call on 0800 977 8880. Or, ask us a question online, instantly, using Live Chat Monday to Friday, 8am - 8pm.

      1. National Health Service. Pain relief in labour [online] 2020. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/what-happens/pain-relief-in-labour/. Accessed May 2022.
      2. National Health Service. Forceps or vacuum delivery [online] 2020. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/what-happens/forceps-or-vacuum-delivery/. Accessed May 2022.
      3. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies [online] 2017. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190/ifp/chapter/delivering-the-placenta. Accessed May 2022.
      4. National Health Service. What happens straight after the birth? [online] 2019. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/after-the-birth/what-happens-straight-after/#:~:text=Vitamin%20K%20for%20newborn%20babies,you%20while%20you%20were%20pregnant. Accessed May 2022.
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