If you thought writing a birth plan was a waste of time, think again.
A birth plan is a means of communication, in writing, that connects the mother-to-be and her obstetrician, midwives and caregivers. It tells them explicitly about her priorities, her opinions and her specific needs and concerns.
A birth plan aims to highlight her preferences during labour, birth and how the new baby is cared for. It is essentially a means to bridge the gap between the concerned mother and her medical care providers at a time when the mum-to-be is probably not feeling too chatty or in the mood for diplomatic discussion!
A birth plan is an extremely important part of your pregnancy planning, and has tremendous significance because it ensures that you and your health care providers are in agreement on all issues regarding the birth of your child.
It also helps you discuss with your partner the ways and means to make the birth of your child memorable. It provides great strength, particularly to first time mothers, about what to expect and prepare for. And it minimises, to a great extent, the possibility of any last minute, unresearched decisions.
Simply put, writing a birth plan makes this unique experience easier for everybody involved.
Some cynics argue that writing a birth plan is futile as it is extremely hard to predict a birth. The plan must convey to the team of doctors and nurses the kind of labour you would like to have, and the circumstances you would like to avoid. But, it should not be drafted in a way that they feel restricted in providing the best care for you medically should anything unexpected occur.
Here’s how you can make the process of writing the birth plan more meaningful:
- get advice from your obstetrician, midwife or an experienced antenatal teacher to help you make informed choices
- get the benefit of the experiences (both good and bad) of other women that have given birth in the hospital or birth centre that you plan to go to
- talk to your partner about his ideas and his role in the birth
- write down any other aspect that comes to mind so that you can research those later
Your Birth Plan – Clear, Concise And Caring
Although it is really hard to make sweeping generalisations about the contents of a birth plan, here are some of the aspects that need to be addressed. You can use our printable birth plan template to get you started. It is important to state that these are only general recommendations, and must be modified to suit the needs, wishes and medical requirements of the expectant parents.
1. Medical desires:
Mention clearly how often you want cervix checks and monitoring. Are you afraid of needles? Do you want any medication to lessen your labour pains? Is there anything that can help you relax? An epidural or other non-medical pain relievers like breathing and relaxation techniques, water (spa or shower), acupressure, aromatherapy, childbirth massage, or walking? Preference for length of stay at the birth centre or hospital should be included.
2. Feotal monitoring:
Do you consider attached foetal monitors to be something invasive, uncomfortable, and restrictive to your mobility and only to be used for short periods of time?
3. Birth preferences:
What position would you like to use during labour and delivery – lying down on the bed, kneeling, squatting, or standing? If at the end of the delivery, if you require help to deliver your baby, what would your preference be – forceps or ventouse? Do you prefer a routine episiotomy or to avoid an episiotomy altogether? Do you prefer to have a natural third stage without the use of drugs to speed up the delivery of the placenta?
4. Physical, emotional and environmental considerations:
Outline clearly the kind of music, lighting, and clothing that you believe would work best for you. Do you want somebody to be with you all the time, or during certain stages of labour? Do you want your other children to share this extraordinary moment with you?
5. Immediate needs after birth:
Do you want the dad to cut the cord? Are you keen on immediate skin-on-skin time with your baby? How do you want your baby to be monitored during and after labour? How do you want to feed your baby after birth?
6. Special needs:
You must include any special needs with regard to diets, allergies, religious or cultural preferences, previous medical history, and any kind of disability that requires special assistance.
7. Contingency planning:
What are your preferences in case of an unexpected situation.
These are just a few ideas that can help you. Make sure your birth plan is flexible, positive, and brief. You could share it with your midwife during your prenatal visits, and present a copy to the midwife-on-duty when you are admitted to the hospital. Use our printable birth plan template to get you started.
Now that you’ve got a well-researched birth plan in place, it’s time to relax and wait for the magic of childbirth to unfold!
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