How to write a birth plan

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A birth plan is a way for you to communicate your wishes to doctors or midwives who will care for you in labour. The purpose of writing a birth plan is to tell them about the type of labour and childbirth you’d like to have, what you want to happen, and what you want to avoid.

If you’re considering writing a birth plan, talk to your partner and your doctor to make your wishes clear before you go into labour. Here are the things to consider when writing a birth plan.

Know the Legalities
A birth plan is not a legal document, and neither your doctor or you are bound to it. It is instead a springboard for discussion. A birth plan is personal and should reflect your wishes and preferences. If there is an intervention you know you don’t want, add this line to your birth plan and give it to your doctor.

Handing this to your doctor can help you feel empowered and safe while you give birth. Give a copy to your partner and discuss it with him so he can communicate your wishes to doctors during labour.

Labour Interventions
Carefully research labour interventions such as fetal monitoring, labour induction and episiotomies. Determine which of these you want, and in what circumstances, and then itemise them in your birth plan.

If you hit a roadblock in birth and can’t remember what you put on your birth plan (like I did! lol) ask your partner to remind you of what you put in your birth plan, which may help you to stand your ground and get through the difficult part of labour.

Visitors
Every woman has a different perspective on visitors during labour. Some love the idea of having relatives or friends there, while others want complete privacy. Make sure you consider this while writing your birth plan, and include directions for visiting doctors, residents and students.

Pain Relief
While an epidural is the most popular form of pain relief during labour, it is not without risk and there are alternatives. Talk to your doctor or midwife about pain relief, and if you do not want an epidural, request that one not be offered. Many women give into epidurals in a moment of weakness after repeatedly having them offered to them. If you want to try alternative pain relief techniques such as water birth or hypnobirthing, mention this in your labour plan, and take a class that prepares you to utilise these techniques.

Caesareans
While almost all caesareans occur when the mother or baby is supposedly in distress, but definitions of distress vary and most medical professionals agree that the caesarean rate in Australia is quite high.

Almost one-third of all births in Australia are now caesareans, according to the latest mothers and babies report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Address the circumstances under which you will consent to a caesarean, and find out your doctor’s policy regarding caesareans.

Movement
Although laying on your back is the most popular position for labour, it is also the least comfortable. IV’s, hospital policy and interventions can confine you to a bed, so it’s important to think about how much movement you want during labour. Do you want to be able to walk freely around the hospital or just bounce on a ball in your room?

Find out your doctor’s policies on movement long before you go into labour, and strategise with your partner and in your birth plan about ways to keep moving even if you need some interventions.

After the Birth

The moments after birth are a powerful bonding opportunity for parents and their children. Address how you want your time with your baby to be handled after birth, and check with your doctor about hospital policies regarding immunisations, blood draws and rooming in.

If you do not want your baby taken away from you, make this explicit in your birth plan, and tell your doctor you only want medical procedures performed on your child in your presence and with your consent.