What to Include in Your Birth Plan

As you approach the exciting day when you meet your baby for the first time, it’s time to think about your preferences for labour and delivery. Some mums-to-be create birth plans to gather their thoughts and to use as a springboard for a discussion with their GP and midwife. Although pregnancy, labour, and delivery are unpredictable, sharing your preferences with everyone involved may help you feel more confident and in control. Read on to find out how to write a birth plan and what to do once it’s written.

What Is a Birth Plan and Why Is It Useful?

A birth plan is a list of your preferences relating to the hospital environment, your medical options, and the immediate care of your newborn. The birth plan provides a guideline for your medical team so that when you’re in active labour you can focus on the task at hand.

Labour is a fluid experience, and a birth plan is simply a guide. You can change your mind at any time about your preferences, in consultation with your GP. It’s important to remain flexible and expect the unexpected.

Just as some parents prefer not to find out the gender of their baby, not writing a birth plan is also a viable option. You may feel confident that the doctors and midwives at the hospital are sure to make the best choices during labour, delivery, and the hours after birth. In this case, it makes sense to go ahead without providing detailed instructions.

How to Write a Birth Plan

Before you start, speak to your midwife or doctor about the different options available to you, and find out what the hospital or your birth centre offer or what options and maternity services you have available in your area, as this information might influence what you decide to add (or what’s possible to add) to your birth plan. Don't be afraid to ask questions − your doctor and hospital team want you to have the best experience possible!

When making your birth plan, it’s a good idea to keep your plan short and easy to read − one or two pages at most – rather than aiming for an overly detailed checklist. Here are some of the things you might consider asking yourself when writing your birth plan. We’ve listed some of the more common items mums-to-be include in bullet points with some other options underneath, which you may also consider including.

Background Details

  • Your name.

  • Your baby’s due date.

  • The doctor, midwife, doula, and paediatrician’s contact details.

  • Where you would like to give birth (e.g., in a hospital, a birthing centre, or at home).

  • The hospital or birthing centre’s address and contact details.

  • The name and contact details of your birth partner who’ll be with you during labour and delivery. You can also specify if this is the person doctors can consult with in case you’re not in a position to respond.

  • Any important medical issues that your doctor or midwife should know about.

During Labour

  • Whom do you want with you during labour and delivery (for example, your partner, mum, best friend, or children)?

  • What positions do you want to try (e.g., lying down, sitting, moving around)?

  • If labour is not progressing as it should (i.e. waters have broken early or there is a health concern), do you consent to inducing labour?

  • Do you want any medication to help with the pain (e.g., an epidural)?

  • If the hospital is a teaching hospital, are you comfortable having students observe or help with your labour and delivery?

There are many options you could add to your birth plan. You might consider mentioning any comfort measures you would like to try, such as breathing or relaxation techniques, having the chance to move around, getting a massage, having the lights dimmed, or playing relaxing music. You might include your preferences for spending part of early labour time in a water tub; whether you would like to use a birthing stool, ball, or chair; if you would prefer water, ice chips, or an IV drip to stay hydrated; and if you would prefer to wear your own clothes rather than hospital-provided gowns − if these options are available in your hospital or birthing centre, of course.

Giving Birth

  • If your hospital policy allows it, do you want your birth partner there with you in the delivery room?

  • Have you discussed having an episiotomy with your midwife or doctor and would you prefer having an episiotomy or taking the chance of the perineum tearing?

  • In case of a caesarean section, what anaesthesia option do you prefer, if you have the choice?

Some other questions you might ask yourself include: Where do you want your birth partner to stand while you are giving birth? Do you want your partner to film or photograph the delivery, if this is permitted? Do you want your partner to hold the baby first? Remember to discuss your preferences with your partner and any other birth partner who’ll be there with you on the day. They may have feelings and expectations about how they would like to experience the day, which you may need to discuss.

After the Delivery

  • Do you want your baby placed on your chest for immediate skin to skin contact ,or would you and your partner prefer that your baby be given to your partner first?

  • Would you like to discuss any medical procedures before they are administered to your baby?

  • Do you plan to breastfeed, and if so would you like the help of a lactation consultant?

Some mums-to-be add these items to their birth plans, too: traditional rituals they want to take place right after giving birth; who they want to cut the umbilical cord; special requests about the placenta; if they want to bank the cord blood; when and how the baby is bathed. It could also be a good idea to discuss with your family and friends whether you would like hospital visits and when may be a good time for them to come see you and your newborn.

Just as a quick recap, here’s a snapshot of some of the things you may consider adding to your birth plan:

Birth Plan Examples and Template

When writing your birth plan, remember that your doctors and midwives have the health of you and your baby as their top priority. Focus on what you do want while keeping in mind that labour and delivery are unpredictable, and that you can't always control what happens. Here are some examples of how you can phrase your birth plan preferences:

“If possible, I'd like to…”

“Unless there's an emergency, I'd prefer…”

“I'd prefer X, only if it's necessary.”

“Please offer me X when it becomes an option, so I can make a decision at the time.”

What to Do With Your Completed Birth Plan

Once you've made your birth plan, review it with your GP or midwife. It's important to remain flexible and keep in mind, your preferences may be impacted by

  • your doctor's recommendations, which aim to lower your risks based on your medical situation. (If your doctor recommends something you are uncertain about, ask for more information so that you feel more comfortable.)

  • the hospital or birthing centre's policies

  • any limits on what's feasible and what facilities are available at the hospital or birthing centre

  • any emergency that arises during labour or delivery, in which case your medical team may need to make changes to the plan based on what's best for the health of you and your baby.

Once your birth plan is ready, give copies to your doctor, midwife, doula, and birth partner. Keep a few copies in your hospital bag, too.

There is definitely a lot to think about, but with a plan in hand, you may feel a little more in control. Above all, remember that even if things don't go exactly as planned, this will be a life-changing day. Try to be present in the moment, and keep in mind this is just day one in the life of your beautiful newborn. You've got this!

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