The idea of writing a Birth Plan is now mainstream for mums-to-be.
As a midwife and when I’m giving Birth Beat classes, I’m often asked for my thoughts on writing a birth plan or using birth plan templates.
While I’m not against the idea of a birth plan entirely, I do believe that the terminology we use has a massive part to play in how we perceive events, both planned and unplanned.
Something I like to suggest to my Birth Beat parents is to write their Birth Wish List – not a Birth Plan. The word plan is quite rigid and can set you up to feel negative emotions if parts of your birth experience don’t go to plan.
Remember, no two Mums, births or babies are the same! So, it makes total sense, that birth plans very rarely go exactly as you describe.
That being said, it’s super important to clearly define your birth preferences or, your Birth Wish List. These are things that you would prefer to happen or would like to have but ultimately you realise that birth is a natural process that we can’t always predict.
Remember, anyone that tries to guarantee you a certain type of birth is not telling you the whole truth. What we aim for here at Birth Beat is healthy Mum and healthy Baby – and to keep in mind that there are lots of variations of ‘normal’ when it comes to childbirth.
Think of your Birth Wish List as a way to communicate your preferences with your healthcare providers. You should do this before your birthing day if possible so that they understand what you and your partner would prefer. Handing them a neatly typed, 5-page birth plan on the day probably won’t go down too well!
Writing a Birth Wish List is also important as a communication tool between you and your partner. Simply by sitting down with your birth partner, going through all the options together and talking about your wishes, it will open up discussion and ensure that you’re both on the same page. The last thing you want to do is write a plan or wish list on your own and have your partner thrown in the deep end (perhaps not the wisest choice of words there!) while you’re in labour. It’s all about communication.
Before you can write an effective Birth Wish List, you need to understand what your options are, and what your choices mean in terms of needing additional care and intervention.
The best way to do this is for you and your birth partner (whoever it is you’re going to have by your side throughout your labour) to get educated. Read, learn and try and understand as much as you can about childbirth processes and terminology. And, take childbirth education classes.
Do your research about what is best for you. Our Birth Beat Online Prenatal Program is an evidenced-based prenatal course that has been created with midwives, lactation consultants, physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and obstetricians. It’s completely online and on-demand, so you can watch and re-watch the modules from the comfort of home whenever it suits you.
Once you understand what your options are, write down your Birth Wishes. What would you like to aim for and try and do when bub makes their arrival into the world? Try to keep your Birth Wish List to a concise, one-page. Anything longer you’re probably starting to over-complicate it. And try and have yours completed by the time you’re about 36 weeks, just in case baby decides to come early!
Options for you to consider when writing your Birth Wish List:
- Where do you want to give birth? This will usually be determined earlier on and depending on your model of care.
- What are your preferences when you are overdue? What induction methods would you like to try or avoid?
- What is your dream birth environment? Things to think about include; who will be with you when you’re in labour, who will be in the room when you’re actually giving birth, low lights, natural light, music or calming mediations, what you’ll be wearing (check out my What to Pack for Birth post to see what I suggest!) and creature comforts such as your own pillow.
- What birthing positions would you like to try? Do any of these need any aids such as birth stool, birth/physio ball etc?
- Whether you would like to be in the shower or bath?
- Your thoughts on pain relief options and your preferences? Gas, epidural etc. Is there any type of pain relief you would like to avoid?
- What happens if you end up needing a caesarean? Who do you want with you?
- Do you already know your baby’s sex? If not, who do you want to announce it? You, your partner, the midwife or obstetrician?
- Do you want assistance to deliver the placenta? Do you want to keep your placenta?
- Would you like delayed cord clamping?
- What happens immediately after birth? Do you want immediate skin to skin contact?
- Will you be trying to breastfeed?
- Do you have any special religious or cultural requirements that the medical staff should know about?
These are just a few of the many options you many like to consider when writing your Birth Wish List. Hopefully, just reading through these is enough to get you thinking and starting to consider what your preferences will be.
When it comes to Birth Wish Lists or Birth Plans, the most important thing is the get educated. If you understand the processes and the possible implications of one choice over the other, you are more likely to feel calm, confident and prepared for childbirth – even if things don’t go exactly as you’d hoped for.
Remember, no one can tell you what your birth will look like. But if you get educated, choose your preferences and communicate with your partner and caregivers, you can be prepared for your best birth possible.
If you want to learn more about all your options and received unbiased, evidenced based information on everything from how to know when you’re in labour to pain relief options and so much more, our Ultimate Online Prenatal Program will teach you and your partner everything you need to know. Find out more and book your course here.