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Birth Plans: what you need to know

Your ‘birth plan’ (or as we prefer to call it, your ‘birth preferences’) is a document where you set out your individual wishes and choices for your birth.


If you’re in the UK, your midwife should discuss this with you at around 36 weeks of pregnancy and record some of your preferences in your NHS maternity notes. However, we strongly encourage you to also put together your own document, which you can tailor to your specific needs.


What’s the point?


Pregnant women and their partners often ask us whether there is any point in writing a birth plan - especially given the unpredictable nature of birth. Our answer is always YES!


While putting things down on paper won’t guarantee the path your birth takes, a clear birth plan or birth preferences document WILL enable your caregivers to understand your unique wishes, and to support you in the best way for YOU.

And this will have a hugely beneficial impact on your birth experience, wherever the journey takes you.


What should I include?


The process of thinking through and researching all the aspects of birth helps you feel informed and empowered as you approach birth. Ignorance is NOT bliss!


There are lots of choices to make on the journey to becoming parents, and thinking these through ahead of time - rather than in the middle of labour - can also help you have a more relaxed and positive experience.


We cover this extensively in Hello Baby antenatal classes as there’s quite a lot to think about! Below are some areas to get you started along with suggestions to research. This isn’t an exhaustive list - you can include anything that is important to you.


TOP TIP: make it concise and easy to navigate!


Place of birth - consultant or midwife led unit within a hospital, standalone birth centre or at home - and who will be supporting you

Research: Birthplace Study, local options (avoid basing your choice on others’ individual experiences)


Preferred pain relief options and comfort measures you are planning to use such as massage, lighting, music, aromatherapy etc in your birth environment

Research: pros and cons of all pain relief options, measures you can use at home in early labour, hypnobirthing courses


Preferences regarding vaginal examinations and fetal monitoring


Positions you would like to adopt/avoid for pushing and whether you would like to be coached or follow your own urges


Timing of the cutting of the umbilical cord and who will ideally do this, preferred option for the birth of the placenta, any arrangements about keeping the placenta if you would like to do so

Research: optimal cord clamping, physiological vs active management of third stage of labour, placenta encapsulation


Choices relating to the care of your baby such as timing of non-essential checks, feeding preferences, vitamin K

Research: vitamin K deficiency, breastfeeding education especially for first few days/weeks, safety guidance for formula feeding


Your preferences in the case of an intervention, induction of labour, caesarean or other special circumstances

Research: what to expect during a caesarean birth, different types of assisted birth, informed decision making


Personal information including your emotions around the birth, fertility journey, previous loss or birth experiences, religious or spiritual requirements, regular medications and medical conditions


FINAL THOUGHT:


We know this seems overwhelming! Take it one step at a time and work through it together with your birth partner so they understand all your wishes and can advocate for you if needed.


A good antenatal course should prepare you to write your birth plan - if you’re feeling a bit lost and want to chat to us about how Hello Baby can help through antenatal classes or a birth plan consultation, get in touch!


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