“Do I need a birth plan?” I hear you ask. Who will read it? Sure will I just go with the flow as labour can be so unpredictable?
YES, you do need a birth plan, whether you actually write it down or not, is up to you. It is very important to discuss this with your partner. There is no right or wrong way to approach labour. Each one of us has different ambitions, hopes and expectations of labour and birth. Let your midwife know what kind of a labour you are hoping for and she will endeavour to assist you, while informing you of any need to deviate from your wishes.
To make that plan you need to be informed. Here are some of the many considerations, but don’t feel too daunted. If you go down through the list, you will be able to answer most of the questions without too much thought. Other areas need a little research to make that decision easier. There are hospital policies in place also, which may influence some decisions, but if you have a particular concern, routine policies can be discussed with your midwife and doctor.
- Birth partner? who will accompany me in labour?
- Where do I wish to have my baby? hospital, home birthing room (hosp), at home?
- What kind of atmosphere would I like? lights low, calm surroundings, music can enhance your labour hormones
- What positions do I want to use during labour? Upright and mobile for as long as possible? (even with fetal heart monitor attached, if possible)
- What natural pain relief method do I want to use? Breathing and relaxation techniques, meditation, visualisation, acupressure, TENs, affirmations
- What pharmacological pain relief methods do I wish to use? Entonox Gas, pethidine, epidural.
- Would I prefer to be offered pain relief or do I want to ask for it when I feel I need it?
- Would I prefer my baby delivered straight onto my chest? Routinely done in most cases.
- Would I prefer to have delayed cord clamping? It is the usual practice to not clamp the cord for at least one minute after birth but sometimes this could do with a mention in labour!
- Would my birth partner or I wish to cut the umbilical cord? May be a nice little ritual for birth partner or indeed Mum.
- Would I prefer active management or physiological management of the third stage of labour (delivery of placenta)? Active management is standard hospital practice so research this if you want very ‘natural’ labour.
- Have I plans to use my placenta afterwards? Placenta encapsulation or otherwise, you need to know if you need to save your placenta for this and if so tell your midwife.
- Would I prefer to continue skin to skin contact for as long as possible? I would advocate for this (Rather than saying that the author advocates it, it might be better to say something like, Skin to skin contact as soon as possible after delivery helps to support bonding and attachment with the baby.
- Would I like to breastfeed my baby?
Again, there is no right or wrong approach, but going into labour blindly just adds to the stress and fear of the unknown. And yes of course labour is unpredictable, but there are many elements within your control and, if you and your birth partner keep communicating with your midwife and doctor, you will have a more positive overall experience. Enjoy this journey, it is not one to be feared. It is empowering and overwhelmingly beautiful!
If you have any considerations to add, I would love to hear them.
Marie, mum of four, is a midwife, practicing Public Health Nurse and reflexologist, with a passion for supporting parents on their journey into parenthood. She provides one day antenatal classes and also specialises in pregnancy and baby reflexology. For her Blog click here for Facebook click here.