If getting on top of things and feeling like you're organised helps you deal with pregnancy anxiety and stress, then a birth plan is a great idea. You can prepare for the labour while you’re still pregnant by writing a birth plan. This little bit of paperwork will help you to get your head around the process and will make sure you get the best experience for you.
Get inspiration from the experts
You can fill in an online birth plan on the NHS website. If you run your life via your phone, there are plenty of birth plan apps which can store your birth plan as well as organising your medical records and pregnancy diary. There's nobody we trust more in birth than midwives. After helping with hundreds of births, some in-the-know midwives gave us their expert ideas when it came to their own labour plans.
While there’s a long list of practical decisions to be made about what sort of birth experience you want to have, we don’t very often think about labour as a personal journey.
‘And what unites positive birth experiences – no matter what kind of birth the mother has had – is that she feels like she has been in the driving seat, and so in control of what’s taken place,’ says Sheena Byrom OBE, a midwife consultant, leader of the Midwifery Unit Network and author of Catching Babies.
Think about writing three separate birth plans:
- A birth plan for your medical requirements
- A birth plan for your birth partner
- A birth plan for yourself
‘Having different directives for the different people in the room could help make sure that your wishes are articulated and acted on to the greatest extent possible,’ says Sheena.
How to write a birth plan:
Use visualisation to help you decide – this mental imagery trick will help link your feelings and experiences.
2) What’s your perfect birth setting?
‘Imagine you’re in labour and see yourself looking good, feeling great and full of confidence,’ says hypnobirthing teacher Judith Flood. Then look around you and note what’s going on. Put this in your plan.
Whether you want to give birth as naturally as possible, or you think you’d prefer every kind of pain relief available, it pays to stay open-minded.
3) Pain relief
In your birth plan, rate your preferences in order. For example, say you’ll start with gas and air, followed by pethidine, then an epidural if things get more painful than you’d like.
Pain relief options depend on where you give birth. ‘There’s no point asking for a birthing pool if your chosen hospital doesn’t have one,’ says Gail.
4) Visit the delivery suite
Similarly, if you’ve elected to give birth at a midwife-led unit, an epidural won’t be an option, because it needs to be administered by a hospital anaesthetist. Chat with your midwife about your options, as they’ll know what’s on offer.
25% of babies are born by C-section, so while it might not be top of your wish list, it’s wise to get clued up on what it involves. If you plan to have one, you need to know what to ask to get the caesarean that is right for you.
5) Think about a C-section
Think about whether you’d like a spinal block or a general anaesthetic. Do you want a running dialogue from the doctors who are delivering your baby, or would you prefer to just talk to your partner?
When it comes to packing your maternity bag, preparation is everything. After all, you don't want to be caught without a bag in case your baby decides to show up early! In your birth plan, you could include a checklist to help you prepare your hospital bag and to ensure you don't forget any essentials.
6) Hospital bag
Don’t underestimate the dad-to-be’s role. Research from the University of Toronto recently showed that a supportive birth partner reduces the need for medical intervention and pain relief. And, if your partner understands what you want, they can speak up for you during labour, as well as encouraging and reassuring you.
8) Discuss with your birth partner
So, make sure your partner is clear on what he needs to do come delivery day by writing your plan with him. ‘You may find you’d both benefit from some extra support, say, with your mum at the birth, too,’ says Gail.
‘Most hospitals give you an injection to speed up the third stage, when your placenta is delivered,’ says doula Adela Stockton from Mindful Doulas. ‘If you’d prefer to deliver it naturally, make it clear in your birth plan.’
10) Final stages of labour
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