So… what is a birth plan?
A birth plan is basically a rough guide for your preferences throughout labour, birth & the immediate post-natal period. It’s a document that lets your care team know how best to support you during birth.
The first thing I always tell clients when we begin talking about birth plans is that the best made plans are always flexible. Making a birth plan does not set your intention for birth in stone.
Birth is unpredictable; the ability to ‘go with the flow’ is definitely an essential. No one knows how birth will feel to them, or how they will feel in the moment. No one can say with absolute certainty that they will not encounter complications. And this is where I believe that the ‘oh you don’t need a birth plan’ argument falls flat on its face.
How unnecessary is it when people patronisingly say to you ‘you have to understand that birth is unpredictable!’. If something is unpredictable, where complications may arise and circumstances may change; if something is ‘unknown’, does it really make sense to go in to it with no knowledge of the process or your options?
When we make plans, be that for a holiday, a wedding or a night out – what is the first thing that we do? We think about what we want and alongside that, we explore the options available to us. Doing this for birth will create thoughts for you, as well as prompting conversations with your birth partner and wider support network that you likely may never have had otherwise.
Birth plans are also a great tool for communication: a way to go through your thoughts and feelings with your birth partner and midwife. Often in situations that feel a bit confrontational or uncomfortable, we can quickly lose our train of thought. Having a written down ‘plan’ can give you a list of talking points and help make sure you don’t miss things out that are important to you. This is especially important if you have any special circumstances relating to you or your pregnancy.
I often say that writing your birth plan is the most important birth preparation that you can do, but what I actually mean is that the process you go through in making these plans is the most important birth prep you can do. This is where their true value lies – in giving you knowledge of exactly what is available to you and at the same time helping you to figure out what is best for you and your baby.
When we proactively seek out information about our bodies, our births & our babies, we open doors for ourselves. We begin to see different possibilities for how our birth might unfold.
A study carried out in Taiwan found that people who wrote a birth plan and discussed it with their care team, overall had more positive experiences than those who did not. When interviewed postnatally, the planners had higher levels of perceived control, regardless of the level of intervention or medicalisation of their births.
How to Write A Birth Plan
I suggest making two or three different birth plans. The first, for your ‘ideal birth’; another for caesarean birth and I’d suggest also thinking about how you would navigate induction. Around a third of labours are induced, for various reasons, though the main one is being ‘post-dates’.
An unplanned caesarean is also a lot more common than people realise, particularly when labour is induced. Last year almost 22% of induced labours required an unplanned caesarean birth.
For induction & caesarean plans, work out what your priorities are from that first ‘ideal’ birth plan and then think about how you can try to achieve those in your other plans.
Another good thing to do is to think about the emotions of that ideal plan and work around that – how do you want to feel? Do you want calm or do you want fun? Do you want a romantic, intimate environment or do you want power? Then consider those emotions and how you can tailor your birth environment to create an atmosphere that is supportive of them, as well as your other wants and needs for birth. This is something that can be done everywhere: whether at home, on the labour ward or in theatre and can be an amazing way to fuel your emotions on the day.
Download the free birth plan template by blog author Claire Smith from the Birthing Parents Club here.