Updated: Mar 2, 2020
Birth plans… What are they and why do they matter?
Simply put, a birth plan is a clear outline of what you want to happen during your baby’s birth and how you expect to be treated. It lets your care providers know what your wishes and preferences are, so that they can work towards this whilst you are in their care.
As with anything in life, some things are beyond our control. Giving birth is no different. Then why ‘plan’ for something that you can’t control?
You will write your birth plan for a specific audience (your care providers), but the person who will benefit most from it, is you. The power of a birth plan isn’t the actual plan, it’s the process of becoming educated about all your options. A birth plan doesn’t mean that you expect your birth to go exactly according to what you have written down. (Although it can!) Rather, by looking at the different stages of labour, you familiarise yourself with the physiology of birth, the different procedures and your rights and options. It encourages you to think about different scenarios and also prepare for the ‘what ifs’. For that reason I prefer the term ‘Birth Preferences’ or ‘Birth Wishes’ over the use of the word ‘plan’. Thinking of it as preferences, helps you to not become overly attached to a ‘plan’, which could lead to disappointment or upset. To prepare yourself for as many different scenarios as you can, you could write 3 different Birth Preferences. You could have an A, B, C plan. ‘Plan A’ is for the ideal vision of your birth. ‘B’ is for any unplanned interventions. ‘C’ is for an unplanned major intervention, like a c-section. Should you be faced with ‘B’ or ‘C’, what are some wishes or options that you have and that could be kept?
A Birth Plan or Birth preferences doesn’t just prepare YOU for labour, it can be a very helpful tool for your birth partner too. That’s why it’s important to write your preferences down together. The clearer your birth partner’s understanding of how you want to birth, the better he/she can support you. You might also find that you have different views on certain things. In that case you can research and discuss together, taking into account each other’s point of view.
So what should you include in your birth plan? This is very personal and entirely up to you. You might feel very strongly about pain relief or a water birth. Or maybe being able to try different labour positions is one of the things that matter to you most. What is important is that you write down the things that matter to you in labour and right after.
How to write and structure your birth preferences? A quick search on Google will list hundreds of Birth Plan templates. Some of them very brief, others will go into more detail. Even if you aren’t using a template, I would advise you to have a look at a few. They might inspire you and give you some ideas. Try and keep your Birth Wishes structured, clear and brief. Although you should always include everything you want to! Don’t feel like you can’t write something down, purely because there isn’t any more space on your document and you will have to add another page. If it matters to you, write it down! When my husband and I write our Birth Preferences for our second child, we structured it by the different stages and timeline of labour. We then used bullet points instead of long sentences. We are both quite organised and matter-of-fact so we found this worked well for us. If you prefer more text or no words at all and just want to use pictures, that’s absolutely fine! The wonderful Milli Hill, founder of the Positive Birth Movement, has created a lovely Visual Birth Plan, that can be downloaded and used for free (https://www.pinterandmartin.com/vbp).
Top tip: Print off a few copies of your Birth Plan and put them in different locations. You’ll be surprised at how often people lose their copy! I suggest keeping 1 copy in your maternity notes and another in your hospital bag. And then maybe having a 3rd copy in the car – just in case!
Hypnobirthing is an excellent way to prepare for birth, learn about your rights and options and find out what your preferences and wishes are. It also teaches you how to prepare for the plot twists and turns of labour!
If you're are looking for a hypnobirthing course in Melksham, Trowbridge or the surrounding areas, take a look at the different type of courses that Nova Vida Birthing - Hypnobirthing Melksham, Chippenham, Trowbridge offers. From private sessions to group classes and c-section workshops. Get in touch for more info!