As you get closer and closer to the big day, you’ll want to start thinking about how you want your birth experience to play out and ultimately how to write your birth plan. From info about your birth partner to pain relief options, you’ll need to gather your thoughts and note down any preferences you might have, so everyone involved is on the same page. For first time mothers, this can be a little daunting and can feel a little like a test – but don’t worry, we’re here to guide you through it and hopefully make the birth plan planning a little easier.
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan, put plainly, is a record of what you want to happen during your labour and delivery. This can include virtually anything you want the healthcare professionals delivering your baby to know. If you’ve received advice from your maternity team that you want to stick with during your birth, you’ll want to add that into your birth plan. If you have specific preferences about the position you’d prefer for labour, chuck that in. But remember, different women have different birth plans – this isn’t GCSE Maths, you can’t copy of your pal. Sure, take advice, but make sure that YOUR personal preferences that fit your circumstances are included in your birth plan.
What goes in a birth plan?
There’s a lot that you can include in your birth plan to help your delivery team know what you’re after during your delivery. Depending on your specifics, like whether you want a home birth, a more holistic birth, or if you’re after a water birth or you want to explore hypnobirthing – you’ll need to detail your ideal environment and other conditions you require when you go into labour.
It’s important to remember to be flexible, though. Your delivery team will try and follow your birth plan as much as they can but ultimately, they’ll do what’s best for you and the baby in the moment. You’re allowed to change your mind whenever you want and so are the healthcare professionals. Remember, everyone has your best interest in mind. Plus, sometimes they don’t have a spare pool in the hospital and apparently calling dibs doesn’t mean anything.
Where to give birth
The first thing you’ll want to include in your birth plan is where you intend on giving birth. Depending on what’s available in your area, you can give birth:
- At home
- In a midwifery unit or;
- In a maternity team unit in the hospital
Your midwife will probably explain your best options and outline the benefits of each, but the decision is yours. You might find it helpful to get some advice from the pros (your Mum friends). Most hospitals and maternity units offer tours - go and have a nosey round. And you can always change your mind about where you’d like to give birth – things don’t always go to plan in labour and your main concerns might change in the moment, which is totally fine.
Information about your birth partner
Having a birth partner offers way more benefits that just having someone to yell at while you’re pushing. It’s actually been shown to reduce the need for pain relief while in labour – suppose having someone there to hold your hand is it’s own pain relief of sorts. But you’ll need to provide some information about your birth partner in your birth plan.
You need to outline who they are and where you’re comfortable with them being while you’re in labour. For example, would you want your birth partner with you if you need a C section? Or if you require a forceps or vacuum delivery? All this needs to be outlined in your birth plan.
Position for labour and birth
Have a think about what position you’d prefer throughout your labour and during birth. This can depend on how active you’d like to be up until the birth – will you be standing and walking around when they’re almost here, or are you more of a relaxer? Here are some popular ones that might appeal to you:
- Squatting – this is a great one for the late stages of labour. Squatting tilts the uterus forward, which is perfect for delivery, and relives some of the pressure from your back.
- All fours – great for getting a little massage from your birth partner! This position also opens up the pelvis and lets gravity do it’s part.
- Sitting – upright on the edge of the bed or using a birthing stool is another great way to let gravity help you out a little. Plus, between contractions you can always lie back and have a little rest before the next big push.
Plus loads more! You can lie on your side, lie down in bed or kneel against some pillows – whatever you think will be most comfortable for you.
Pain relief preferences
This is probably the one that requires the most research. If you’re going for a natural birth, there’s a little less to think about. You can try breathing and relaxation tactics, massage and maybe being in water to relief some of the pressure.
Other than that, you’d have to think about any other pain reliefs you might like to try to assist with delivery. This can include:
- Gas and air
- TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
- Pain relieving injections
At this stage, it’s also worth including if you’d like to try and use hypnobirthing techniques. Helping ease anxiety and stress with hypnobirthing can be an effective and natural form of pain management and one that more and more mums-to-be are opting for.
Additional equipment options
There are some great tools and gadgets that can help a lot during labour. Sometime maternity units and hospitals are able to provide you with the equipment you’d like, but in other circumstances, you’d have to provide your birthing equipment yourself. This is something that your midwife will be able to advise you on. Some great birthing tools that you might consider are:
- Birthing bar – this can be added to most labour beds and helps to support you whilst squatting or leaning during birth.
- Beanbags – a birthing beanbag is designed to keep you in the most comfortable position possible while in labour so it might be a good addition to take along with you.
- Birthing ball – these are incredible for relieving back pain, our advice would be to just get one now and enjoy while you’re waiting.
You’ll want to include in your birth plan whether you will provide the equipment or if you’re just hoping for the hospital to have some spares to hand. There are often balls and other equipment floating around the hospital but it might be a good idea to bring your own if you’re counting on it.
When should I do my birth plan?
If you’re a super organised person who likes to think ahead, you’ll probably be thinking about getting your birth plan sorted as soon as you can. But we’d wait until at least your second trimester to start thinking about how you’d like the birth to go down. There is an awful lot to bear in mind, though, so you should leave yourself a good few weeks to ensure you know what you want.
We would aim to have your birth plan completed by around the 30-35 week mark, that way if your little one decides to show themselves a little early, you already have your plan ready to go. It’s good to bear in mind that, if you do have an early birth, your birth plan will likely have to adapt to the needs of your little one.