How many times, since you announced your pregnancy, have people said to you “There’s no point writing a birth plan, it’ll all go out of the window as soon as you’re in labour”?
I definitely heard that one a few times! Once I hit my third trimester, I couldn’t eat my lunch at work without well-meaning colleagues telling me all about the births of their babies and why they didn’t bother with a birth plan. However, after I discovered hypnobirthing, I had a completely different mindset about birth planning, and I realised that having a birth plan can be really beneficial.
Describing it as a ‘birth plan’ can make it sound almost like a ‘to do list’, where you might feel like a failure if you don’t ‘achieve’ everything, but that’s not how I look at it. Instead, it’s more of a ‘wish list’, which is why I renamed my birth plan as my ‘birth preferences’. It seems like a small thing, but that change in language can help change how you feel.
It’s really important to know your options during labour and birth, and writing a birth plan can help to ensure that you (and your birth partner) have thought about different situations that might come up. That’s not to say you need to write a novel covering every possible scenario! More that if there is anything that is particularly important to you, it may come up during these discussions. For example, some people would not want an instrumental birth under any circumstances, and would rather have a caesarean section. Or as an alternative example, some women want to be the one to cut their baby’s cord.
Remember, birth can be unpredictable, so some level of flexibility is always required. However, if midwives and other birth practitioners know what is important to you, that will really help them to cater your care to you and your specific circumstances.
If you’re not sure where to start when writing your birth plan, these visual birth planning cards from The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill are a great place to begin. There are different images that can be used to plan all types of birth, some people even choose to use just these images to form their plan.
The NHS website also has some useful information as a starting point for writing your birth plan, and this webpage also has a link to a downloadable template you could use.
There are lots of other templates available on the Internet if you have a look around, or you can of course just write it in a blank document!
A few final birth planning tips:
Keep it to one side of A4 if you can! Remember midwives may not get much time to read what you have written, so keep it as brief as possible.
Bullet points are fine! No need to be fancy.
Print a few copies and put them in different places in your birth bag (so your birth partner can definitely find them when needed!).
It’s a good idea to include key details at the top, such as yours and your birth partners names or where you are planning to birth your baby.
I hope this is useful to you! Feel free to share with anyone you know who is preparing to give birth soon.