how to write a birth plan

How To Write A Birth Plan

A birth plan is a document that communicates your wishes around labour, delivery and aftercare. It is not mandatory to have a birth plan, just an option. This is a great resource for your midwife to get to know you and what is important to you. It’s important to remember that delivering your baby can bring all kinds of surprises, so remember that your birth plan outlines your preferences – not necessarily what will happen on the day. 

Here we’ll explore some of the headings which you may want to include in your birth plan and some language to avoid.

Table of Contents

Pain Relief

When you think of pain relief during labour, you probably think of an epidural. While this is the most effective and common way to relieve the pain, this is not your only option.

Methods of pain management you can request include:

Relaxation

Changing position and movement

Hypnobirthing

Massage

Birthing ball

Bath or shower

Gas and air

TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)

Pethidine injection

Epidural

You can discuss with your midwife which methods are suitable for you based on different factors and which methods can be facilitated at your chosen hospital.

Important: Avoid using language like “do not give me an epidural” on your birth plan unless it is medically unsafe for you to have an epidural. An anesthesiologist could refuse to administer your epidural if there is a written document stating that you do not consent to the procedure. If it is your preference to not have an epidural, simply write “I would prefer pain medication only be offered at my request”.

Augmentation (speeding up labour)

Labour can be a slow process, so there are certain interventions to speed it up. If your baby is doing fine, you can choose from a few different methods. 

You could choose to include the following on your birth plan:

I would prefer nonmedical methods such as walking and different positions

I would prefer my midwife/obstetrician to break my waters 

I would prefer not to have my waters broken

I would prefer not to receive medication to speed up labour, unless medically necessary

Giving birth

When it comes to the main event, there are still wishes that you can communicate to make it as special as possible.

You could choose to include these birthing preferences in your birth plan:

I would like to play music 

I would like to use low-lighting 

I would like to wait until my baby descends before I push

I want to wait until I feel the urge to push

I would like to use a variety of positions

I would like to push whenever I feel the urge

I would like my midwife to instruct me when to push

I prefer to tear naturally rather than receive an episiotomy 

I prefer not to have an episiotomy unless absolutely necessary

I prefer not to use vacuum/forceps unless absolutely necessary 

I prefer not to have a Caesarean Section unless absolutely necessary

I would like to touch my baby’s head as it crowns

I would like to use a mirror to see my baby coming out

If possible, I would like my baby to be given to me straight away 

I would like to do immediate skin-to-skin

I would like to breastfeed as soon as possible 

I would prefer to do delayed cord clamping 

I would like my partner to cut the cord

I would like to delay my baby’s first bath 

what to include in a birth plan

Placenta Delivery

Known as the Third Stage of labour, once your baby is born your placenta needs to be delivered. 

Preference for delivering the placenta can include:

I would prefer to deliver my placenta without medication

I would prefer to be given medication to help birth my placenta

I will be bringing my placenta home with me

I will be using a Placenta Encapsulation service 

I would like the hospital to take the placenta

Caesarean Section

C-Sections account for about 20-25% of births in Ireland. Different maternity units may have higher rates of c-sections, so make sure to do your research about your chosen maternity unit and enquire about their policies if their rates are higher than the national average. You may have a planned c-section, either due to medical factors or at your own request. You could have an unplanned c-section, where your doctors decide that a c-section is the safest route for you and your baby even though you had been planning a vaginal birth. Or you may have an emergency c-section, where the delivery must happen urgently for a variety of reasons. 

Preferences regarding c-sections may include:

I would like my partner to be with me at all times during surgery

I would like the screen lowered so I can see my baby coming out

I would prefer to do delayed cord clamping

I would like to hold my baby as soon as possible

I would like my partner to hold the baby as soon as possible

I would like to breastfeed as soon as possible

Feeding

It’s helpful for your midwife to know what way you plan to feed your baby. This enables your team to assist you with the first feed as effectively as possible.

Preferences regarding feeding may include:

I plan to exclusively breastfeed

I plan to use formula 

I plan to feed my baby both formula and breastmilk

I prefer if my baby is not given soothers/pacifiers or bottles without my consent

I would like help establishing a good breastfeeding technique 

Remember to talk to friends and family who have given birth in the past and see if they have any suggestions on what to include in your birth plan preferences. 

Once you have completed your birth plan, make sure to discuss it with your midwife to make sure everything on your list is suitable. This will minimise the changes that will be made to your preferences on the big day.

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