Planning Your Baby's Birth
Although some couples are happy to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach to labour and birth, most prefer to have thought about what they would like to happen during labour well in advance of the big day. A birth plan is an easy way for you to communicate your wishes to the midwives and doctors who care for you in labour. It tells them about the type of labour and birth you'd like to have, what you want to happen, and what you want to avoid.
This is not inflexible or set in stone – quite the reverse in fact; it needs to be flexible and acknowledge that things may not go according to plan. Although you don't have to write a birth plan, your midwife can help you if you want. Any birth plan you write is personal to you and should reflect your wishes and preferences. Always talk to your partner and make sure they understand the type of labour and birth you want to have wherever possible. If you've had a baby before and have had past experiences that you feel may affect this labour and birth, include these in your plan.
You can be as individual in your birth plan as you want but there are several headings that most people always have in it, including;
Your birth partner
This is where you state who you want to have with you in labour. Do you want them there all the time, or are there times when you would want them to leave the room? If you were to need an assisted birth or even a caesarean section, would you like your birth partner to stay with you at all times?
Positions for labour and birth
What positions would you prefer to use during labour and for your baby's birth? How active you would like to be? You can request that, whenever possible, you be upright in bed or lying on your side, be kneeling on all fours or standing or squatting – the choice is yours initially.
This is often a big concern to women and their partners and there are a wide variety of options here such as breathing gas and air, pethidine, medical pain relief, epidurals and other methods such as breathing and relaxation techniques, water births, massage or a TENS machine. If there are any types of pain relief you would like to avoid, write them down.
Speeding up labour
If your labour slows down, or becomes very long and tiring, would you want your midwife to speed it up, or wait and see what happens naturally?
Monitoring baby's heart rate
In a straightforward labour, your midwife will usually monitor your baby's heartbeat intermittently (about every 15 minutes), using a handheld device. Write down if you would like intermittent monitoring or continuous electronic monitoring (EFM), where an electronic belt is strapped around your waist and records baby’s heart rate all the time.
Think about what you would want to do if you need some help to deliver your baby – such as using forceps or a ventouse (suction cup) delivery. Many women are happy to see what your midwife or doctor recommends if the time comes where this option may be needed.
Take some time to think whether you wish for your baby to be placed directly onto your tummy straight after birth, or if you prefer for your baby to be cleaned up before he or she is handed to you.
Feeding your baby
Be very clear about whether you want to breastfeed or bottle feed your baby and also, if your baby is breastfed, if they are allowed to have any bottles of formula milk.
Think about what you would want to happen if your baby has to go to the special care baby unit, or if complications develop after baby has been born. Do you wish to care for him yourself as much as possible, and be transferred with him to another hospital if a transfer is necessary? Although this is uncommon, it is better to think about such a situation before it happens rather than at the time.
Once you and your partner are happy with your birth plan, discuss it with your midwife during one of your antenatal appointments.
It is very important to point out that although a birth plan is helpful, labour and birth are unpredictable and your midwife or doctor may need to recommend a course of action at any time which is not what you had originally hoped for. If this happens, remember that this will always be in the best interests of you and your baby.