Writing a birth plan that works
For most of your labour, you and your partner will be on your own - even if you choose to give birth in a hospital. Doctors and midwives will come in and out of your birth suite and so it is important before you go into labour that you know what type of labour you are hoping for. Writing a birth plan can help communicate your wishes for the birth, but there's a big difference between an effective plan and a long, instructive document that could cause conflict. Here's how to write a birth plan that works:
Don't call it a birth plan
A birth plan's main purpose is to start a discussion between you, midwives, doctors, your partner and anyone else present at the birth - and it doesn't even have to be called a plan. "A birth plan can be a great idea, but the title isn't great, as often things won't go according to plan," says midwife Karen Cole. I think 'birth choices' or 'birth preferences' are better ways of describing it.
Write it with your partner
It can be helpful to write your birth plan with your partner, opening up a dialogue that might not otherwise happen. If there's something on your mind, it's the perfect time to bring it up. "Men and women have different ideas and expectations around the birth, but may not tell each other," confirms Karen. A birth plan is a great way of communicating with your partner. That way, they won't do things that drive you crazy.
Be polite (and keep it short)
A terse, instructional document may well aggravate doctors and midwives, so always be polite and ask for your wishes as preferences rather than a prescribed outcome. "Some doctors and midwives are reluctant to mention birth plans because people arrive in labour and hand it over, almost like a contract that can't be deviated from," says Karen. Try and keep it short, as midwives won't have to time to read pages and pages. And use bullet points if you feel you're not a good writer.
Write it before your due date
A birth plan can be written early on, even as soon as the first trimester if you're choosing a private obstetrician. If you're booked into a labour ward or birth centre you've more time, but don't leave it right up until your due date. "Start writing it at the time of your childbirth classes, so around the 35-36 week mark," advises Karen, explaining you should pass a copy to a midwife at your next hospital appointment. The midwife will put it on your file and, when you ring up during the early stages of labour, she'll see who's coming in and what you want.
What to include in your birth plan
- List a few different pain relief options, even if you're sure you want an epidural, or plan to jump in a birthing pool.
- In terms of hubby cutting the cord or catching bub, they are decisions that don't always go to plan, often only being decided a few seconds before baby emerges.
- If you want skin-to-skin contact with your newborn, and don't want baby immediately cleaned and wrapped, mention it on your birth plan.
- Vitamin K is used to help baby's blood clot and syntocin is a hormone used to help the uterus contract post-birth - read up on the pros and cons, and add your viewpoint to your birth plan.
- Remember it's also not what you want to happen: It can be things you don't want, such as forceps or epidural.
Related pregnancy articles
This article was written by Joanna Bounds for Kidspot, New Zealand's best family health resource.