How to Write a Baby Birth Plan
Birth Plan Poll
Did you write your birth plan with your birth partner?
What is a Birthing Plan?
A birth plan puts down in physical form what you want your ideal birth to be like. Drawing up a birth plan makes you consider the huge variety of options available, as well as think what is important to you during the labour and birth.
The key to a successful birth plan is giving as much detail as possible in how you want things to go, whilst accepting the unpredictability of the process. A birth plan is not a series of orders that your birth team will follow without question; their first priority is to the health and wellbeing of mother and baby. The document must be delicate - you don't want to come across as telling experienced doctors and nurses how to do their jobs!
Sample Birth PlanClick thumbnail to view full-size
How Should I Present my Birth Plan?
Many antenatal notes have specific sections for you to write your birth plan, but there are other ways for you to present your birth plan.
You might want to write your birthing team a letter. This is quite personal and will give your midwife a better understanding of your personality than a list of requests (remember: not demands). If you choose to handwrite this letter, make sure it is well presented and easy to read. The birthing team will see many birth plans a day and need to be able to judge your wishes at a glance.
My wife and I decided to present our birth plan on a t-shirt that my wife will wear during the labour and delivery. This means that anyone medically involved with my wife can clearly see her wishes - no-one can say "Oh, I didn't know that's what she wanted - I didn't see the birth plan" This also solves the problem of what to wear during the messy process of childbirth. You can also be more colourful and creative with the layout of the birth plan
Tips for Writing a Birth Plan
- Write a short introduction that introduces you and your birth partner, and thanks the team in advance for following your plan.
- Give a brief overview of the type and tone of labour you are expecting.
- If writing out on paper, try breaking up the plan into labour, delivery, and post-delivery.
- Try bullet-pointing to make the plan easy to read.
- If you feel something is especially important, try to explain why.
Creating a Birth Plan
A written birth plan is a tool for communication between you and your birthing team. It sets the tone of the labour and birth you are hoping for without setting anything in stone. This should be done well in advance of the birth, and your birth partner should be consulted if not actively involved in the process. The last thing you want to do is to make life-changing, labour-altering decisions when in an emotional situation, with plenty of pain!
To make the right choices, you need to find out what is available to you:
- Talk to friends and family about their experiences.
- Discuss with your midwife the choices you need to make.
- Discuss with your midwife if there are any options not available to you. This saves your becoming emotionally set on something that is not medically sensible.
- Attend some prenatal classes - some even offer specific advice on writing birth plans.
- Take some time to sit down with your birth partner and imagine your perfect birth experience. Be realistic: an hour-long, pain-free labour is highly unlikely.
When you feel ready, try drafting a birth plan. Remember, your birth team will read dozens of these plans a week; you need to use language that is friendly, easy to understand, and shows you are willing to be flexible.
How do I Write a Baby Birth Plan?
What to Include in your Birth Plan
Your birth plan needs to be detailed in order to be effective, whilst acknowledging that things could change. You need to detail your preferences (remember: this isn't set in stone) regarding a number of facets of your labour and birth:
- Where you want the birth - home? birth centre? hospital?
- Who you want with you during labour and delivery?
- Medical Procedures and intervention?
- Pain relief?
- Management of the after-birth?
Birthing Plan Checklist
Who do you want in the delivery room? On ward? In the Hospital?
Discuss with your family, but remember that your decision is final and not open for discussion.
What types of medication are you willing/wanting to have administered?
Anything from a natural birth, to gas and air, to an injection, to an epidural. Research the effects of each of these.
Do you want to know the midwife who cares for you?
Do you want to be able to get up and walk around whilst labouring?
If you lie down, the baby must push out against gravity. Midwives now recommend for women to stay as active as possible during the labour
Do you want intermittent or constant foetal monitoring?
Constant monitoring will restrict you to the bed
Under what circumstances would you be prepared to have an episiotomy?
An epiosotomy is a surgical incision that enlarges the vaginal opening. This is a painful procedure Current research suggests it is far better for the body to tear naturally.
Do you want your partner to cut the cord?
The midwife team will only allow this if safe to do so
Do you want baby to be delivered onto your stomach (skin-to-skin)?
This keeps baby warm and releases oxytocin - the hormone that helps you bond with baby. This has been shown to reduce the effects of post-natal depression
Do you want the placenta to be managed actively?
A quick injection to speed up the process (10-15mins) and lower the risk of haemorrhage. Without this, afterbirth will take around an hour
Do you wish to keep any part of the placenta?
The placenta is human tissue. You will have to abide by strict rules governing the disposal of this.
Sharing your Birthing Plan
When you get into the delivery room, hand a copy of your birth plan to your midwife. Also, (and only if permitted by the hospital) hang a copy on the front of your door. You may also want to hang a large-print version on the wall near where you are set to deliver (this is a good job to give a fidgeting birth partner who is getting on your nerves!)
Should I Share my Birth Plan?
The only people who definitely need to see your birth plan are your birthing team, and your birthing partner. Your birth partner is going to be a huge help, and will be the first port of call for any medical decisions if you are not in a fit state to respond. Your birth partner needs to know your wishes in detail.
As to the rest of your friends and family, how much or little information you choose to convey is up to you. Your birth plan will outline who is to be on ward, in the delivery room or not there at all; these people should also be informed early on.
If you can't get everyone to agree to your decisions, don't worry. It is simply your way, or the highway. You and your partner have the right to decide on your birthing options. When your birth plan is in place, simply tell the people in your lives where, when and how you plan on having the baby. All grudges will be forgotten when your little one arrives.
If you are worried how a particular family member will react (e.g. informing your mother she is not to be at the birth) consider sending them the plan by email. This will give them time to come to terms with your decision in private. It is not their place to question your decision.
If all else fails, and family or friends still insist that you are wrong and need to change something, have a confrontation. Thank them for their concern and assure them that you have made these plans in collaboration with medical professionals and point out that it is not their body or their child, and therefore not their decision. Confrontations are never pleasant, but you will be happier than having this argument on the day. Rest assured that, as long as there is no medical reason to the contrary, the mother-to-be's wishes are given priority by the birth team.
This may be the most important day of your lives, but you are not open to special treatment. Unrealistic demands will not be greeted with a smile, but politely refused. The birthing team will not take any unnecessary risks with the health of the mother or baby just to satisfy a birth plan.
Keep your birth plan focussed on those elements that you can control, and have a plan B for when things need to deviate (and they will).
When things start to deviate, stay calm and discuss the options and their impact with your delivery team and your birthing partner. Your birthing team are the experts and they will help you make the best decisions possible.