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How to write your Birth Plan

Or... as I like to call them 'Birth Choices' or 'Birth Decisions'!

I'm going to start this blog post by acknowledging the fact that folk may have told you that there's 'no point writing a birth plan, because you can't plan for birth/ there's no way of knowing what will happen on the day' etc, etc...

Well... they're kind of right - but at the same time *seriously* wrong. There absolutely IS a point in writing a birth plan, because YOU MATTER and what you want matters too. No - we can't have a crystal ball into the future to plan out minute by minute what's going to happen during your baby's birth - but you can have a think about the most common scenarios which could happen, the choices you have available to you, and decide ahead of time what you'd like to do in each of these scenarios.

Something I encourage the couple's I work with to start thinking about is NOT creating just 1 birth plan, but instead 3. The reason many people are reticent to encourage the idea of a 'Birth Plan' is because by just having one set of values, or elements which will equal a positive/ good birth experience for you, you're actually seriously limiting your chances of feeling calm and positive about your birth.

Instead what we do is look at a 'Plan A', 'Plan B' and 'Plan C'.

'Plan A' would be your ideal birth, your dream birth. Put this plan together based on what YOU want, no-one else. Try and think about the things which will make you feel safe, secure, loved, comfortable.

If you haven't heard about the role of Oxytocin in birth... go have a research, or come join me on a Birth Preparation workshop. This is the hormone which is going to determine how 'easy', quick, manageable etc your labour will be - you need to nurture and encourage it!

'Plan B' - Now this is the tricky one, but the one which is massively important. What if plans veer away from 'Plan A'? What interventions would you be happy with, which would you not be happy with?

As part of my workshop we talk through this together, but I also provide the couples I work with a 'Birth Plan Checklist', which is full of all the things most people don't WANT to happen during labour, but which they don't prevent from happening by not thinking about, planning for and learning how to prevent.

Don't let the 'scary stuff' be the elephant in the room - by not making decisions about these things ahead of time (ie as part of your Birth Plan) you don't stop them happening... you just make sure that if they do happen you have to think on the spot, during labour.

It's really important to remember that absolutely EVERYTHING in maternity care is a choice - absolutely nothing is mandatory. By law you can decline anything and everything before and during your baby's birth... whether it's having blood tests done, an induction or a cesarean section. Everything is a choice. Those things that you DON'T want to happen? It's your job to find out how you can 1) avoid that thing happening, and 2) perhaps thinking about you would like to happen instead.

'Plan C' -This is your C section plan. Should the need for a C Section birth occur, what could you include to ensure that this is a calm, peaceful experience for both you and baby? Have your own music played? Use Hypnobirthing techniques to relax? Ask for your baby to be born slowly and gently? How about practical things like having your ECG dots placed on your back (so baby can be placed straight onto your chest) and having your IV placed in your non dominant hand (so feeding and holding baby is easier!). Have a think... there's a lot you can include in a C section plan to ensure it's a beautiful birth experience.

Let's take a look at the practicalities of creating a Birth Plan. As in what should/ can it look like?

I'd start by heading over to this page which contains a load of icons, each of which represent an option you could start to think about for birth. These icons have been created by Milli Hill author of 'The Positive Birth Book' and 'Give Birth like a Feminist' (two AMAZING reads which I'd highly recommend to any pregnant woman.

Take a peek: Visual Birth Icons

What I do during a Birth Preparation workshop is we play a game of 'Snog, Marry, Avoid'... well 'Yes I want, No I don't want, Meh?' with the icons. So go through them all, tick the icons you WANT at your birth, Cross the ones you want to avoid & put a '?' next to any you either don't understand or you're not sure if you want/ will have to have. You'll probably be surprised at just how much there is to consider!

For the things you're not sure about, or don't really understand some great places to begin your research are Dr Sara Wickham and Evidence Based Birth . I'm an Evidence Based Birth Professional, and so can provide detailed information factsheets on pretty much any pregnancy/ birth 'complication' or decision you can think of! Let me know if you're struggling!

Keep it simple and to the point; I'd try and stick to a side of a4 paper, 2 max. Your care team are doubtless busy and short on time - make sure they can very easily understand your choices. This plan is your way of communicating clearly and efficiently about things which are really important to you, at a time when you probably aren't wanting to have discussions!

Bullet point your choices, or perhaps use the Visual Birth icons! You could either list in order of importance to you, or in 'birth order' - ie 'labour', 'pushing', 'after the birth' - it's up to you!

Fuse 'Plan A' (which will likely not be all that long) and 'Plan B'. Put 'Plan C' on a separate piece of paper and in your birth bag.

Make 3 copies! One for your notes, one for your partners back pocket (gives them something to read & ground themselves with during labour!) and a spare in the birth bag... they have a habit of going missing sometimes!

Let me know how you get on & if this was helpful! If you'd like to join me in preparing fully for your baby's birth & how you can maximise the chances of having the birth experience you want, read a little more about what we do here: Birth Preparation Workshops

Jessica x x

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