Should I write a birth plan?
One of the most common questions I am asked at the start of an antenatal course is
“Do I have to write a birth plan?”
My answer of course is that you don’t HAVE to do anything!! – But there are definitely strong benefits to having one.
Midwife perspective –
Unless you are fortunate enough to be hiring an Independant Midwife, you will almost certainly have not met the Midwife that will be at your birth before. Now whilst most mums worry that they won’t “know” her and the Midwife will be a stranger – the same is also true for the midwife! She doesn’t “know” you, and has to forge a relationship with you almost instantly, at a time when you are likely to be anxious, stressed and emotional. A birth plan will give your midwife a very quick insight into how she can best support you in achieving your choices without having to launch into a long conversation between or during contractions.
Mums perspective –
A birth plan gives you ownership over your labour and provides you with a focus rather than just “doing whatever you are told”.
The actual “writing” of a birth plan will give you a good opportunity to really sit and consider what your options are, and what things really matter to you. Attending antenatal classes will help you to understand your choices, and the decisions you will be asked to make in labour and immediately following birth.
Also don’t forget that labours can be very long and you may see a change of shift and handover to at least one other midwife – your birth plan saves you having to re-iterate your choices each time.
Partners perspective –
You should always discuss your choices with your partner when making a birth plan – and ensure that they understand WHY you are making these decisions. Ensure they have their own copy so that they can refer the midwife back to it if they feel you are unable to express your choices clearly during labour itself. e.g. if you are hypnobirthing and need people to be as quiet as possible then your partner could pass the midwife the plan if she continues to “natter needlessly” around you. (remember this may be done with the best of intention to try and get to know you, but your relaxation methods need to be respected).
So what should you consider when writing a birth plan?
- Keep it succinct and to the point. More than 8 points and you are probably waffling!
- You don’t need to write about the environment – you are perfectly capable of turning lights off, turning music on, closing doors, changing into your comfy clothes etc without writing it all down.
- Use POSITIVE language – instead of telling the care provider what you “don’t” want (and risking coming across as negative and inflexible) – tell them what you “would” like. Using wording like “i am aiming/hoping to” will encourage your midwife to converse with you about your choices as your labour unfolds – this will lead to you feeling that you were able to make informed choices and appropriate decisions on the day.
- Always have a plan B in your mind. You don’t need to write it down, but do prepare for alternative outcomes. No matter how much you want the birth of your dreams, labour can be a complex event with hundreds of different factors coming into play.
- Finally – ignore every occasion above that I have written the word “Plan”
Please write a list of your birth PREFERENCES. – No birth can be truly planned. Preferences are more forgiving and recognise that flexibility is key.