Writing a Birth Plan to some people might seem completely pointless and I totally get that. Birth is unpredictable. You might be given a due date but that baby could turn up anytime really from 38 weeks when you’re considered full term. Sometimes it even happens before that and sometimes you’re left their waiting until 42 weeks after hanging on to your due date for so long. You don’t know how, where or when labour will spontaneously happen either. If having a plan sounds a bit too much then think about it as your birth preferences. Think about a plan A, your ideal birth experience and then have some things in mind for a plan B and C just in case things do become a little more unexpected. People have said to me just “go with the flow” but I really can’t do that. I’m not that sort of person. I like knowing what type of pain relief is available and thinking ahead of the type I would prefer to have. I like working things out in stages and even if things change I know exactly what course I would like to follow after a particular change. Having a high BMI also makes me more at risk and makes monitoring harder and the type of monitoring I want to have isn’t something I want to think about whilst I’m trying to let my body do what it should know what to do!
My first pregnancy was really straightforward however with an induction and then failure to progress during pushing which then lead to an unplanned c-section so this time around I am hoping for an at home VBAC birth but I also have an idea of how I’d like to have a planned c-section. In all fairness, I really don’t want to have a c-section at all. The idea of having another round of surgery whilst being overweight and the longer recovery period is making me feel increasingly worried, however, on the flip side, being induced increases the chance of scar weakening and rupture. It’s really hard when you’re a high risk pregnancy but that’s why I think it’s even more important to have a birth plan or birth preferences in mind. I’ve put together a list of books that I think are must reads when pregnant which could really help with planning a positive birth.
The benefits of a birth plan for me have been:
- Helped with my anxiety. I feel I’ve ironed out every detail in my mind of how I’d like to birth and I feel really positive about labour.
- A plan A, B and C has allowed me to think of best and worst case scenarios for the birth and where it will happen
- I have made my preferences clear to my midwife, consultant, doula and consultant midwife – all of which are being helpful, positive and supportive
- I understand a lot about the risks and benefits of the type of birth I want as well as what might happen if things don’t go to plan
- I feel more connected to my body and baby
- Midwives can easily see exactly what I want and expect from the birth as well as my newborn preferences
- In the throws of labour I shouldn’t need to answer lots of questions about what I want as it’s clearly marked out and I am hoping easy for my midwife to be really in tune with
- It has taken away a lot of the overwhelm and helped me come to terms better with my previous birth
I wanted to share some top tips when it comes to writing a birth plan and how I’ve made some of the decisions I have for having a positive birth experience as well as explaining some of my choices for this birth and my baby.
- When writing a birth plan, put the most important information at the top so it’s clear. For me, I have put that I have anxiety, that I’ve been in an abusive relationship and that my consent for internal examinations is important. I feel this really sets my birth plan off in the right way and will hopefully eliminate the issues I had with my previous pregnancy and the lack of communication and empathy I had from my previous birth and hospital.
- Add names of your birth partners and the location in which you are planning to give birth. I have named myself, my partner and my doula as well as what we like to be called. This makes it nice and easy should I be transferred to hospital during labour and for any midwives handing over to know who we are and what to call us. I know it sounds obvious but it just makes it nice and straightforward.
- Try and keep it to one page. Think of it as an overview for the birth. Mine is two pages because I have one for a VBAC and another for a planned c-section should it get to that stage. I have laid it all out in sections from staying at home, first stage of labour, transition to hospital, second stage of labour, the placenta and my newborn preferences. These are headings you might want to consider.
- If you’re a planner, like me, you might want to consider writing everything down in list form and then condensing down. My birth plan was originally eight pages long and went into a lot of detail which I’ve managed to hammer out after writing letters to my consultant and talking through with my doula. I now feel like my notes and my birth plan represent exactly the type of experience I want.
- If you prefer visual birth planning I strongly recommend the Positive Birth Book which will direct you to free images to use to create a visual birth plan. Or you can get really creative and draw your own visual birth plan if that helps! It should be an experience that makes you feel good and prepared.
- Make time to talk through your birth plan with your health care team when you approach the third trimester.