Making Your Birth Plan: A Complete Guide
Making your birth plan can feel like yet another ‘To Do’ in your pregnancy checklist. Do you really need one? What should you include? And how do you tell your doctor if you want something a bit unconventional? We get the lowdown on how to prepare for your best possible birth experience with Lauren Brenton, One Mama Midwife, Endorsed Midwife and mum of four.
A birth plan contains more than just spa music and birthing pools. It’s a tool to convey your wishes to your birth partner, your support team and your primary care professionals. The simple act of making your birth plan is a valuable prompt to consider exactly how you want to give birth, where, with whom, what interventions you’re ok with, and even baby and self-care after the big event.
“Having a birth plan is not about controlling exactly what happens in your labour and birth,” says Lauren. “But it is about educating yourself and understanding your options. It’s also about having a clear way to express what your preferences are for your labour and birth.”
You will spend the rest of your life advocating for your child - and it starts before you even give birth.
“A birth plan is a great way to discuss with your midwife or obstetrician so that you don’t forget when you’re in the zone. Your midwife or obstetrician will always talk you through any recommendations along the way as well.”
So don’t worry that your birth plan is set in stone if you suddenly find yourself veering away from the all-natural, no intervention route 12 hours into your labour. The best birth plans are a guide, not a gospel.
“It is a good idea to have a birth plan that is flexible to allow for complications to arise,” says Lauren. “If things do change during your labour and complications arise, it is essential that you talk with your midwife and ask as many questions as you need to. This is your opportunity to adapt your birth plan to the current situation, and to advocate for things that are important to you in that situation (for example immediate skin to skin with the baby).”
What to Include in Your Birth Plan
“A birth plan should cover all of your preferences for your labour, birth and postpartum period.
“You can include if you have any specific medical conditions and who you would like in your birth,” notes Lauren.
“Most people include how they want to labour, how they want to give birth (caesarean or vaginal), how they want their birth space set up, pain relief preferences, preferences about assisted births (forceps or vacuum), preference about who delivers the baby, who tells the sex of the baby, whether a tear or episiotomy is preferred, how you would like to feed the baby and any other preferences.”
It’s a great idea to talk these choices through with your partner, to help you get clear on the type of birth experience you’d like. Using the above as a discussion guide may reveal preferences you had never considered - and help you to best articulate your desires.
When should you create your plan? “I recommend making your birth plan after you attend birth classes. This way you will have a better understanding of what your options are and why certain things are recommended. This is usually anywhere from 30 weeks onwards,” suggests Lauren.
Lauren’s Big Three Birth Plan Inclusions
When you’ve birthed four children and built a business around childbirth, you know a thing or two about making a positive birth plan. We asked Lauren for her Top Three inclusions - start here, and then add or adapt your plan to your personal preferences.
- Pain Relief Options - “It’s important to include a section on pain relief options. This should include what type of pain relief you are okay with trying, from complimentary options (like the Birth Comb) to medicalised pain relief options (including the epidural). Include whether you want to be offered pain relief in labour, or whether you don’t want to be offered but you’ll consider it and ask for it if you need it. This can help your midwife know to try and help you work with the pain, not against it if you don’t want an epidural or whether to get you an epidural early if that’s what you want.”
- Labour Positions - “Include that you want to be able to labour upright (even if you are being continuously monitored). Being upright in labour, especially early labour can help your baby’s head press onto your cervix and thus help you progress faster in labour.”
- Skin to Skin Contact with Bub - “Include skin to skin immediately after birth and at least the golden hour (first hour after birth) uninterrupted. This will help you take advantage of all your hormones being the highest after birth, thus helping with bonding and initiation of breastfeeding. Having this uninterrupted skin to skin has been shown to improve long term breastfeeding rates.”
What if You Want an Unconventional Birth?
Whether you’re planning a hospital birth with epidural, a planned caesar or a natural delivery at home, you need to let your primary care team know. They can provide expert advice, help guide your decision making and present options for you to consider. But what if you want something out of the box and don’t know how to raise it with your doctor?
“My top tip is to discuss your preferences early. The earlier that you have conversations with your healthcare provider, the easier it will be to put things into place especially if you want something that is a little more unconventional. The thing I learnt with my fourth baby is that it is your body, your baby and your birth experience. As long as you’re willing to move around to find someone to support you, if it is important to you, then you should be supported in that decision,” says Lauren.
What if You’re Planning an Induced Birth or Caesarean?
Just because you know ‘when’ you’re having your baby, doesn't mean you won’t still benefit from a birth plan. Attending antenatal classes can help to get informed on your options, post-birth education and self-care while you care for your bub and even breastfeeding. The birth itself is just part of your overall birth plan.
“Birth classes are essential in helping you feel prepared and empowered for your birth,” says Lauren. “Often women who are having a caesarean section go into their operation feeling like they have no options, when in reality there are a range of things that you can choose to do to help with breastfeeding and bonding with your baby.
“Having knowledge about how to best prepare and help with your healing is vital to helping you recover as best as you can.
“Furthermore, attending birth classes designed specifically at caesarean births (such as the One Mama Midwife Caesarean Classes) will give you all of the information you need to know about normal newborn care, baby sleep and breastfeeding as well which is vital to starting you off on the right foot.”
When your focus is on getting your baby OUT, you might not consider all the new-mum things you’ll need to learn post-birth!
“Breastfeeding in the first few weeks after birth can be challenging and this often shocks many new parents. It is important to learn about breastfeeding before your baby is born so that you can learn how to help your baby in the first few weeks, know what is normal and how to deal with challenges that may arise with breastfeeding and baby care. Knowing what is normal can help you to feel less overwhelmed but also empowered in trusting your intuition and having the confidence in yourself and your ability,” says Lauren.
Ready to Pack Your Hospital Bag? Lauren’s Must-Haves
You’ve made your birth plan and filled your birth bag with onesies, nappies and booties, right? But don’t forget these Top Five must-haves from Lauren.
- Comfy clothes for mum – trackies, tights, baggy t-shirt for labour, postpartum recovery shorts from TheRY group, button-up nightie for the first night after birth.
- A ziplock bag or separate packing cube with the clothes you need for the first shower after birth. By having everything in this one bag it is easier for your partner to grab it and have everything you need for that first shower.
- Your One Mama Midwife Birth Comb to help you with the pain of labour.
- Long phone charger so that you can use your phone while it’s plugged in for those late night feeds
- Healthy snacks – when you’re up feeding in the middle of the night, the hunger is next level and it can be hard to find healthy, delicious snacks in the hospital. Motherhood Hydration powder by Bumpnbub and Franjos Kitchen is also a great healthy drink to snack on in the middle of the night, while staying hydrated at the same time.
Taking some time now to plan for your birth months or weeks into the future can help you have a brilliant birth experience. Whether everything goes according to plan or you need to make changes on the fly, remember your end goal is a happy and safe baby and mama. Getting informed, considering your options and talking through your preferences is the best place to start.
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