Writing your Birth Plan - tips, pointers and a free template
Preparing for birth can be stressful, especially for first time parents. Some parents may choose to plan their birth and write their wishes down in a birth plan, but many may find it difficult to put their thoughts on paper, and struggle to find a way to start. In today's blog post I will talk about writing your birth plan, what is a birth plan, tips how to write one and what you may want to include.
What is a Birth Plan?
A birth plan is a document outlining your wishes, hopes and plans for your labour and birth. It can be used as a tool to communicate with your care givers and chosen birth place staff to ensure you receive the care you want and you experience birth you are hoping for. Your birth plan should be created specifically for you, outlining your individual needs and wishes, as well as taking into account your medical history and conditions. It can contain as much or as little detail as you want, depending on how specific your dream birth is. Think about your birth plan as a wish list for your dream birth, but don't get disheartened if everything doesn't go as hoped for - as we all know, not everything goes according to plan and so you may wish to include a plan B or a list of procedures you feel comfortable with should your original dream birth not be possible for any reason.
Do I need a Birth Plan?
No, you don't need to have a birth plan in order to give birth. It is an optional document. However if you have any specific idea about your birth and fear that during labour and birth you won't be able to effectively communicate your wishes, it may be handy to have one ready so your medical team can refer to your notes.
What do I need to consider before I start writing my birth plan?
There are quite a few information that you may want to include in your birth plan. You should always consider your own personal circumstances, medical conditions as well as recommendations from your medical professional while deciding how you'd like your birth to be. In order to write a clear birth plan, you may want to take into consideration the following points:
Place of birth - where would you like to give birth? You can find options for places to give birth in Oxfordshire on the NHS website here.
Do you want a home birth?
Who do you want with you as a support team? Perhaps you may want to opt to have your partner with you, or a family member, or perhaps you want a doula present during your birth. Think about your options and decide who you wish to share this special moment with you.
You may wish to include preferred birthing positions.
You can detail your wishes regarding pain relief, your personal pre and post natal care and comfort as well as care for your baby.
You may wish to include details on medical interventions you're happy.
You may wish to outline a plan B in your birth plan in case that your dream birth isn't possible.
You may wish to include a section regarding a Caesarean section so that your medical team knows what your wishes are, should this procedure be necessary.
You may also wish to include important information regarding your pregnancy if you had any complications or other health background information that may affect your birth.
You may wish to consult your birth plan with your midwife to find out what your options are to ensure you can make the best informed decision for you and your baby.
You may also wish to outline what procedures and ways to speed up your birth (if any) you are comfortable with.
You may also wish to include information on how much or how little monitoring you want.
If you don't feel comfortable with medical students or student midwives to be present during your birth, you may want to include this in your birth plan.
You may also wish to include information about postpartum care and feeding plans for baby.
Try to keep in mind your chosen birthing places policies and facilities when writing your birth plan.
You can include as much or as little information - some mothers have a very specific idea of how they want to welcome their baby to the Earthside, and some feel that the best way for them is to leave all decisions to their healthcare team, therefore ensure you consider all your options and write your plan in accordance with what you are comfortable with and what you feel is best for you and your baby.
Is there anyone I can consult before writing my birth plan?
Your midwife or doula should be able to assist you in writing your birth plan, or perhaps if you are attending pre-natal courses, your class teacher can help out as well.
What format should my birth plan be?
This is entirely up to you and your preference. Some parents want to write their plan in Word Document and have it printed, and some parents are more visual and prefer to use a tick off template where they can select options that resonates with their wishes best. You may want to have a combination - this is entirely up to you and your preferences to decide, but try to keep the birth plan short, easy to read and straight to the point, so it is easy for your medical and support team to read and refer to during your birth. If you are writing your birth plan from scratch, consider using phrases such as "I would like my birth to be..."; "I would prefer x, unless necessary" or "Please offer me x when it becomes an option so I can make an informed decision."
There is a large variety of templates and examples online, from very simple word documents to pretty and colourful designs; you can purchase them or find a free one on the NHS website here.
I have also created a free customisable PDF Birth Plan template - you can find it and download it for free in the files section of my free Lockdown Babies Oxfordshire Support Group on facebook. It is a 4 page document where you can specify your wishes and add notes.
My birth plan is written. What now?
Have your midwife review it - if your midwife wasn't involved previously in writing your birth plan, have them check your birth plan once it is written and take into account their notes and recommendations. Ask questions and make informed choices that you feel are right for you, your and your baby's health and your circumstances.
Be flexible - often times things may not always go as planned, so don't feel disheartened if your specific wishes and hopes may not be able to be met in all circumstances. Be prepared that you may need to make some minor amendments as not all facilities can accommodate all wishes. Your care team should always keep you updated and discuss wherever possible any decisions with yourself or your birthing partner before making a decision on your care so you are able to make informed decision that you are comfortable with.
Be prepared you may change your mind - it can be the case that you want a birth to go one way and when it comes to the day D, the situation feels different and you want to change your mind about your birth. Remember - your birth plan is just a "wishlist" or a rough guide, it is not a set in stone rule or plan, so if you feel like you want to make changes at any stage of the process, or if you feel like your plans have changed, discuss this with your team and express your new wishes. There is nothing bad about diverting from your birth plan if you feel it is best for you and baby - always do what you feel is best for you and your baby.
Keep it as a keepsake - after your baby is born, you may wish to keep your birth plan as a keepsake. Perhaps you want to create a pregnancy and baby time capsule, or pop it in a pretty memory box so you can remember your pregnancy and birth journey in the future.
I hope you found this blog post helpful and that it gave you an idea where to start with your birth plan if you decide to have one. And I hope you will experience the birth you wish and hope for.