Your baby’s birth is a momentous occasion. No matter which way your baby is born, you will have a birth story, be it positive or otherwise. Education during your pregnancy is an essential step toward positive birth outcomes (52), along with care from a known midwife (53). A birth plan is a written list of what you’d like to happen when you are in labour and give birth. A plan includes things like who you’d like to be with you in labour, and what position you’d like to give birth in.
When you start thinking of your birth plan, you might like to start with some keywords or notes. These can include lists of prompts, wishes, and questions. This list is a great way to begin talking about your birth plan with your care provider. It’s also a good idea to discuss your birth plan with your partner, and whoever else will be with you at birth. If they know what you expect and what your decisions are, they’ll be able to give you better support. It’s important to realise that this is a starting point as a tool for education and open communication with your care provider. In this way, you can ensure that your birth plan will have the most significant effect on your experience (54).
Birthing in hospital
Childbirth is a natural process, one that has been affected by birthing in a hospital environment. Sometimes it’s for the better. With the relative safety of hospital-births came intervention, medicalisation and litigation. While a birth plan can help you to formulate ideas, ideals hopes and desires it in no way guarantees the process that you want. However, it does offer you the opportunity to be well educated about your options and expectations of your birth. It may also give you a greater understanding of informed consent and prompt your care providers to involve you in changes of plan (54).
Does my birth plan affect my birth?
Some research indicates that women with birth plans have a slightly lower need for an epidural. Women with and without plans have the same chance of caesarean section (55). Birth plans are most effective when they build a relationship of trust, understanding and compassion between the woman and the caregiver (52). Essentially, there is not enough research to show support for or against birth plans. A birth plan can encourage education about your body and your rights, and communicate your wishes with your health provider (55).
Most importantly, try to make your plan flexible. Even healthy and educated women have birth stories very different from those they had. Women are unhappy with their births most commonly because they have felt disempowered. This disempowerment occurs when we feel that we did not have decision-making power during the process. A flexible birth plan that has room to move will minimise this risk. Your midwife or doctor will be able to use your birth plan as a communication tool. They will ask your preferences, make sure you know your options and ask for consent once you are educated and happy with your decision.
Common birth plan topics include:
- Pain relief options and preferences
- Water immersion or waterbirth?
- Active or physiological third stage?
- Delayed cord clamping?
- How you will communicate with your care provider
- Your birth space – music?
- Do you want candlelight?
- Do you want affirmations to keep you calm and focussed?
- Feeding your baby
- Vaccinations for baby
- Support people and visitors
Nikki-Lee Rossiter (BMid), Registered Midwife
Photo by chrisbignell used under license from Shutterstock.com