When to come to writing a birth plan, people might say “You can’t plan a birth” – there are so many things that can happen that are unexpected, or not go to “plan”, births can be quicker, longer, harder, easier, more complicated or simpler than we anticipate. However, I am a big fan of having a “Birth plan”, as it’s very challenging to have these conversations while it’s all happening, so if you’ve written down all your preferences or thoughts about what you would like to happen around birthing, and talked through these preferences with your Birth Support Person and Health Care Providers, will all be on the same page.
You may want to consider the following questions for your birth plan:
Identify who is going to read your birth plan.
You may even want to write one birth plan to be given to your health care provider and a slightly different birth plan to be given to your birthing partner.
Who will be attending the birth?
Do you want just the father or other parent of your baby present, would you like a close friend, relative, or your own mother there as well. Having two support people can be good for your support people to support each other (for bathroom or snack breaks, or to take turns holding you up in a position you feel most comfortable, or applying pressure to your back) . You may also wish to hire a Doula as a support person.
Nothing goes without saying.
If it’s important to you write it down. This includes things like: “Baby is to remain with me after birth; baby is not to be taken out of the room without my (or my partners) knowledge or without explanation.” Or “Nobody is to touch my body without my consent.” Or that you intend on breastfeeding or bottle feeding from birth. Whatever is important to you, write it down.
Are there any specific interventions you will or won’t consent to?
Things like internal examinations, continual foetal monitoring, a cannula and so on. Or ways the hospital may want or offer to move your labour along, for example – stretch and sweep, artificial rupturing of membranes (breaking you waters), syntocinon/pitocin, prostaglandins gel/suppository etc. If you are thinking of any of these procedures talk to your care providers about the RISKS and BENEFITS of these procedures.
What positions do you think you might want to birth in?
It might sound silly but have a think and practise in different birthing positions, find how you feel most comfortable. Consider also the assistance of gravity in birthing – laying on your back may not be the easiest way to birth, consider on your knees with your arms supporting you on a bed, chair or birthing ball. You might want to use a birthing chair to squat and push down. Some women push while standing and then lower themselves to the floor to birth. You might want to birth in a birthing pool. Be open and flexible to what your body tells you, but if you feel comfortable discuss how to think you might want to labour and birth with your birthing support person(s).
What are your personal boundaries?
Particularly if you are birthing in a hospital environment you may want to consider your own personal boundaries, around things like who and how someone touches you, when and why your Care Provider does an internal examination, think about how you feel about having additional people in the room observing you birthing (example – students in a training hospital) Be clear with your Care Providers about what you feel comfortable with and open up that discussion early on in your pregnancy and also discuss with your Birth Support Partner(s).
Is there any pain relief you would like to be offered?
Such as gas, an epidural or spinal, pethidine – ask before you are in labour what and when you can take and what are the risks associated. Or what drug free alternatives would you like to be offered, such as a shower or bath, or if they have heat packs for your back, or if you need your birth partner to hold you or apply pressure anywhere.
How long do you intend on staying home?
Factor in how far from hospital you are and also what time of day you might be heading in, babies don’t care that its peak hour, so keep traffic in mind when planning and preparing to leave for hospital, if in doubt, leave earlier.
What would you like to happen immediately after baby is born?
In the moments immediately after your baby is born you might have a strong feeling about what you would like to take place – for me it was if baby was born healthy and there was no emergencies she was to be placed wet and naked onto my chest immediately and the cord was not to be clamped or cut until my say-so and that I would wait until the cord stopped pulsating before the cord was cut. You may be offered a syntocinon injection to induce contractions to speed up the delivery of the placenta. You may also wish to see or take home your placenta after you have birthed it. I clearly stated that my baby was to remain with me at all times unless there was an emergency and in which case I would be informed where she was taken and why.
Unfortunately this does not always go without saying and sometimes healthy babies are taken into another room away from their mother to be cleaned, weighed, measured and receive their Vit K and Hep B injections. So I suggest being very clear about your expectations as they may be different to your hospitals standard procedure.
Are you having a c-section?
You might want to consider leading up to your baby’s birth setting up your home to avoid having to bend or reach for baby items – have all your nappies, and changes of clothes, wipes, dummies, wash clothes, nappy creams etc at about table height to make coming home with baby a bit easier on you. Consider how you will get around for the weeks following your baby’s birth as driving is not recommended for 6 weeks post c-section. A lot of mothers find high-top “granny panties” most comfortable to wear post birth until the scar heals. Also consider your expectations post-birth the same as for a vaginal birth, where will baby be while you are sewn up, are you particular about who holds baby while you are recovering.
If you are unsure of anything – ask questions, ask questions at every appointment, ask questions if you can in labour, comment below and we will reply to your comment ask anyone you can until you feel your questions have been answered. You can always add to or change your birth plan as you find new information or feel differently about choices you’ve written down.