‘Birth Preferences                                           

A birth “plan” provides the midwives and medical staff with an easy to read document that summarises your preferences for labour and the immediate after care of your new born baby. Your midwife might have already asked you about this. Sometimes mums get caught up in having a ‘plan’ and become fixed on certain ideas. We prefer to talk about birth preferences and choices.

 

  1. Benefits of a birth preferences list or ‘plan’?
  2. What if something unexpected happens?
  3. What do midwives think of birth plans?
  4. What should I include?

 

  1. Benefits?

It is a good idea to create a birth preferences list because it:

  • prepares you for the birth by thinking through ‘what if’ scenarios in advance of labour, e.g. if I go beyond my due date I would prefer ‘to be’ or ‘not be’ induced. Or, what I want my partner to do when the signs of labour
  • allows you to explore options with your midwife and ask for more information during your antenatal appointments.
  • provides a focus for pregnancy book research, ante-natal classes and when talking to other mums.
  • creates a realistic plan of preferences based on reality; available hospital facilities, your health, home birth suitability, hospital practices and procedures.
  • helps build a supportive relationship with medical staff by introducing you and your birthing partner to midwives and medical staff.
  • increases confidence because you are informed, prepared and have included a number of comfort strategies that work for you.
  • helps you focus attention on birthing during labour because you have a document stating your wishes.
  • communicates your wishes clearly to medical staff when you may not be able to do so verbally.
  • is unique to your specific circumstances, medical history and personal preferences.

 

  1. What if something unexpected happens in labour?

Your birth plan’ is not set in stone; it is a list of your ‘ideal’ preferences. Once you are in labour, you may change your mind about certain things (e.g. pain relief) or the midwife may suggest a different course of action depending on the well being of you and your baby.

 

Write the birth plan in the knowledge that your options are flexible and it will help you to remain calm and confident should the birthing of your baby take a different turn from what you were hoping.

 

  1. What do midwives think of birth plans?

Midwives are in favour of birth plans because it familiarises you with the stages of labour, pain management options and different forms of medical intervention. If you and your birthing partner are well informed you are less likely to feel intimidated by medical equipment or jargon.  Consequently you are more confident, relaxed and positive about going into labour.

 

Your midwife will be familiar with reading birth plans.  Although medical care is paramount to midwives, they also provide tremendous physical comfort, emotional support and encouragement – they are most definitely on your side!

 

  1. What should I include in my birth plan?

The best birth plans are short and use bullet points that allow carers to quickly understand preferences without having to flick through reams of pages.

The key sections in your birth plan include:

  • Personal Information – details you and your partner or supporters name.
  • Environment – subdued lighting, preference for gender of medical staff, water birth.
  • First Stage Preferences – pain relief, monitoring evaluations, labour positions, eating / drinking.
  • Second Stage Preferences – breathing, positions, support, holding the baby before checks, cord clamping etc
  • Third Stage Preferences – how the placenta is delivered naturally or medically where the medical staff administer drugs.
  • Care of Our Baby – handling of baby by staff, wish to breast feed baby.
  • In Case of Cesarean – pain relief, bottle feed or breast feed, support required.

 

Other Considerations – summary of above, recognition that birth may not go according to plan and that well-being of baby and mother is paramount.