How to write a birth plan

Baby being born after following birth plan

What is a birth plan, and should you have one?

A birth plan is exactly what the name says – a plan of action for your birth.

For many moms, birth is something that happens to them and the process often feels out of your control. It is important to realise that there are decision to make during the birth process that will play a big role your birth experience.

Feeling anxious about giving birth?

Writing out a birth plan is a great way to manage pre-birth anxiety. It documents your hopes and expectations for the day.

It also lets your midwife, doctor and/or nursing staff know what your wisher are for the birthing process.

Remember that a birth plan is not set in stone and does not ensure that all thing go as planned. In fact, a birth plan is instrumental in communicating your wishes to your medical team when things do not go as planned.

Do your research.

Before you write down your birth plan, do a bit of research on what options are available to you.

Talk to your midwife or gynae about any concerns you may have as well as what their opinions are on key aspects of the birth process.

Talk to other moms. Find out what worked for them and what didn’t as well as what they recommend.

What to include in your birth plan?

Your birth partner. Stipulate who you would like to have inthe room with you when giving birth.  Are there times you would prefer them not to be in the room?  Make sure your birth partner is aware of your wishes.

Labor and birthing positions. Explain the positions you would like to try during labor. Would you like to use a ball, or remain in your bed? If you are having a water birth, when do you want to get into the pool?

Pain Relief. Be clear about if and when you would like pain relief. Ask questions about pain relief options for labor from your doctor or midwife to help you make this decision.

Natural pain relief methods include massage and pressure points, aromatherapy, hypnobirthing and water. Medical pain relief options include Entonox (nitrous oxide), Pethidine and Aterax injections, and epidural anaesthesia.

Other medication. If your labor is not progressing as you would like, do you want to be given medication to speed up the birth?

Rupture of membranes (or waters breaking). Are you open to having your membranes ruptured artificially, or do you prefer to wait for it to happen spontaneously?

Skin-to-skin. Your birth plan should state if you would like your baby to be placed on your chest immediately after delivery or would you prefer your baby be cleaned and then handed to you. Make sure to pack clothes that would allow you to do skin-to-skin. (eg. a button down shirt instead of a tank top).

After birth. Do you wish for stem-cells to be saved? Would you prefer delayed cord clamping? Make sure to jot down your wishes to prepare your medical team.

Feeding your baby. Be very clear in this section on what your wishes are for your baby. Do you want to exclusively breastfeed? Or may formula be given? Make sure everyone is aware of what you would like to happen.

Read more on how birth influences breastfeeding here.

Unexpected situations. It is a good idea to think about what could happen if things do not go according to plan. A vaginal birth may end as a Caesarian.  Your baby may need to spend some time in NICU. Think about these situations and if there is anything you would like to happen in the event of an unexpected situation, write it down here.

Discuss your birth plan with your team

Once you have written your birth plan, discuss it with your doctor or midwife on one of your visits.

This is your opportunity to ask questions, and to make sure that your doctor understands your expectations, plus that he/she is willing to honour your wishes as far as possible during the process of birth.

Be open to their suggestions and advice, while staying true to yourself. You’ve got this momma!!!!

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Christine Klynhans is a midwife and lactation consultant with a firm believe that gentle parenting can change the world. She has worked in midwifery since competing her B.Cur nursing degree in 2004, and has a special passion for education and for writing. She currently works in a well-baby clinic and give antenatal classes and breastfeeding support. She enjoys working with parents of babies and toddlers, aiming to help them find gentle solutions to their parenting problems and assisting them in incorporating healthy habits and natural health alternatives into their daily lives.