Note: A birth plan doesn't have a set pattern but is unique for every individual.
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan lists your preferences and requirements well in advance (before labour). It serves as a guide for how you would like your labour and delivery to go. If labour goes as planned, this is the guide to follow. It serves as a communication to your relatives, midwives, doctors and nurses, of what you would like to have and what you would like to avoid.
What should be included in a birth plan?
- Your medical history: Include any medicines or anaesthetics you are allergic to. If you have had a baby earlier, include your past experience.
- Your birth partner: Mention who needs to take you to the hospital and be with you during labour and birth. Mention who decides if you aren't able to decide on whether you need an assisted birth or caesarean if natural birth isn't possible.
- Procedures during labour: What your position during labour should be-whether you'd like to lie down, or walk around, or be propped up with pillows. Be as specific as possible.
- Pain relief: Whether you'd like an epidural or not.
- Other equipment: Mention if you'd like to listen to music, use stress balls, or anything else you wish for to make your labour easy.
- Stem cell banking: Mention if you are preserving cord blood, so that the stem cell bank can be informed as you go into labour.
- After childbirth: You may wish for your baby to be placed directly on to you right after birth, or may prefer for him/her to be cleaned before being handed to you. Clearly state if your cord blood is to be preserved to be given to the stem cell bank.
- Feeding your baby: Please be clear if you want your baby to be breastfed or formula fed. If you are opting for formula feeding specify which formula needs to be used.
What do you do after writing the birth plan?
Check with your gynaecologist if everything mentioned in the plan can be carried out (if all goes well). For example: some hospitals may have restrictions on fathers entering the operation theatre. You had rather know of this sooner than later and make appropriate changes to your plan. The doctor or midwife might suggest some more changes to the plan since they know your medical history more closely.
Though a birth plan is useful, labour can be unpredictable. Your doctor or midwife might need to deviate from the instructions anytime and the plan of action might not be what you outlined. However this will always be in the best interests of you and your baby.
What are the benefits of writing a birth plan?
You can reduce a considerable amount of misunderstanding and stress during labour by writing your birth plan in advance. You need not write it all at once. It could be a well-thought out process, prepared after consulting your ob-gyn through the 9 months of your pregnancy.
What happens when labour doesn't go as planned?
There are times when labour doesn't go as planned and some deviations can happen. Writing down a birth plan gives the woman an assurance that despite her incapability of talking about her preferences during labour, most of what is being administered to her is as per the plan she has outlined in advance.
What do you need to know before writing your birth plan?
Do thorough research before writing your birth plan. Speak to your ob-gyn to understand your medical condition. Consult other mothers, who have given birth in the hospital you are likely to give birth in, about their experiences. Talk to your birth partner (your husband or relative who is likely to be with you during labour).
You can create a birth plan for both a caesarean and a natural birthing process.