A birth plan is an optional written plan you can write and share with your midwife or obstetrician. You can use this plan to talk to them about your wishes. Have this conversation a few weeks before your due date.
How to write a birth plan
Your birth plan will be put in your hospital file after you have discussed it with your midwife or obstetrician. The midwife looking after you in labour will read it then.
It can be hard to predict how your labour and birth will go. Keep an open mind as plans may need to change.
Complications can arise with you or your baby, or facilities such as a birth pool may not be available. Your midwife or obstetrician will give their advice when this happens.
When to write a birth plan
It's a good idea to write the birth plan after your antenatal classes. These are an opportunity to learn more about labour and birth.
If you do not have a birth plan
You do not need to have a birth plan. Your midwife or obstetrician will answer questions and explain your options during labour and birth.
What to put in your birth plan
Things to mention in your birth plan can include:
- where you will give birth
- your birth partner or support person
- birth aids and equipment
- positions during labour
- pain relief options
- how your baby is monitored during labour
- assisted birth - forceps and ventouse (vacuum)
- caesarean section
- episiotomy (incision between the vagina and anus to help the passage of your baby )
- birth of the placenta
- cutting the umbilical cord (cord clamping)
- your baby's care after the birth
- any special requirements you may have
Where you will give birth
Write down if you want to give birth in the hospital or at home. Your GP or midwife will discuss your options.
Your birth partner or support person
Write down if you want them in the operating theatre if you have a caesarean birth. Be aware that your birth partner will be asked to wait outside if you need a general anaesthetic. This is when you are asleep during the operation.
Talk to your birth partner about your birth plan so they know what your wishes are. You can also think about what they can do to support you during labour.
Birth aids and equipment
Write down if you plan to use birthing equipment such as birthing balls and birthing mats.
Check what is available in the hospital and what you might need to bring yourself.
Positions during labour
You can write down the positions you may prefer to try during the labour.
Pain relief options
There are many pain relief options during labour. Some women try a combination of methods.
These might include:
- self-help techniques, including breathing, taking a bath or shower, aromatherapy or hypnobirthing
- TENS machine
- gas and air (Entonox)
Write in your birth plan your preferred pain relief options in labour. You can also write down if you would like to try not using any pain relief.
You may need more or less pain relief than you had planned.
How your baby is monitored during labour
Every baby's heartbeat is monitored to make sure they are not in distress.
Talk to your midwife or obstetrician about how monitoring works. You can also write down that you would like information about this when labour begins.
Constant monitoring may be recommended for some pregnancies.
Assisted births - forceps and ventouse (vacuum)
Some babies need extra help at birth. For example, if your baby needs to be born quickly for their safety. An assisted birth is when forceps or a ventouse suction cup are used to help deliver the baby.
Write down if this is something you want to discuss with your midwife or obstetrician.
Caesarean section (C-section)
In a caesarean birth your baby is born through a cut in your abdomen (tummy). This takes place in an operating theatre. Some caesarean births are planned. Others are emergencies when complications arise during labour.
An episiotomy is a cut in the perineum (the area between the vagina and anus). This may be necessary if your baby needs to be born quickly.
Put in your birth plan if you would like to discuss this with your doctor or midwife.
Birth of the placenta
Write down your preferences about the birth of your placenta (afterbirth). You can do this naturally or with medication.
The placenta will be discarded after birth unless you state you wish to keep it.
Cutting the umbilical cord (cord clamping)
The umbilical cord is clamped and cut after your body has pushed out the placenta. This is usually done after 2 minutes or after the umbilical cord has stopped pulsating.
This might happen sooner if your baby is ill.
Write down if you have any wishes. For example, having your birth partner cut the cord.
Your baby's care after the birth
You can write down your wishes for your baby after the birth. This can be useful if you are unwell after the birth or have had a general anaesthetic. The information can help your birth partner or support person.
This section can include:
- if you would like to have skin-to-skin contact after the birth - your birth partner can do this if you are unable to
- how you would like to feed your baby - breastfeeding or formula-feeding
- if you consent for your baby to have vitamin K after birth
Any special requirements you may have
There are other things that you may like to include yourself.
You might like to include needs that are individual to you.
For example, if:
- you have dietary preferences
- you have religious needs
- English is not your first language and you need someone there to help you communicate or an interpreter
- you need a sign language interpreter
- you or your birth partner have special needs
Sharing your birth plan
Discuss the birth plan with your midwife or obstetrician a few weeks before your due date.
They will be able to talk to you about:
- your wishes
- your medical history
- your circumstances in this pregnancy
- what is available at your maternity unit or hospital
This conversation is a chance for you to go through your requests. Your midwife or obstetrician can review and agree on them with you. If the hospital cannot grant a particular request, you will get an explanation for this.
What may be safe and practical for one person may not be a good idea for another.
You can also get answers to questions you had when writing the plan. For example, what birthing equipment is available. Or how your baby will be monitored during labour.
After the discussion, your midwife or obstetrician will sign your birth plan. A copy will be put in your healthcare record. This is sometimes called your hospital file.
Hospital staff will aim to keep you informed and involved in your care during labour and birth.