A birth plan is a great way to do your research and think about how you want labour and delivery to go. Our expert takes you through the key steps of writing a birth plan, and has included four handy downloadable birth plan templates!
A birth plan is a valuable tool that can help a couple articulate what is important to them in preparation for this important life event. Think about planning your wedding: every last detail was probably accounted for months in advance. We women know what we want, and we search for resources to meet our needs. A birth plan can be used in the same way to communicate what we want, try to anticipate the unexpected and – equally important – identify what we DON’T want. It also communicates to caregivers how they can assist in helping a couple achieve the birth that they want.
The key to a good birth plan is remembering ABC:
A – Be ASSERTIVE! Use language like “I will move around in labour” or “I will eat to hunger and drink to thirst” rather than “If it’s ok with my doctor I would like to move around”. A common one I specifically see in Singapore (where episiotomy is still widely practiced) is “I do not want an episiotomy, I’d prefer to tear”.
B – Keep it BRIEF! I always suggest to clients that they have one page in total if possible that includes labour and birth, a few notes in the event of a C-section, and steps for when you are up in the post-natal ward. When you are a busy midwife or OB, you are going to skim over it so the old saying “less is more” is essential in this situation.
C – Be CONCISE! So for example a client may write. “Do not offer pain relief. I’ll ask for my options if needed” instead of “Well I am planning to try for no drugs but I’d like to keep my options open”.
I also encourage my clients to write a short paragraph at the start, introducing themselves and stating that they understand the nurses play an important role in the safety of their baby and thanking them in advance. The nurses/midwives will greatly appreciate this.
It’s also important to add that when hiring a doula, she will go through a birth plan with you and will be able to let you know what is important and what is less than important based on the specific OB and hospital.
For example, I have done hundreds of births with Dr Paul Tseng over the last 15 years so I know how he ticks. When a client says “I want the lights down low” or I want to move about in labour” I know that those things can happen with clients that have him as an OB so if the birth plan is long, we can cut it down by removing certain things that I know Paul is already OK with.
Discussing your birth plan with your doctor
Clients will generally discuss their birth plan with their doctor around week 36. Their doctor will discuss what he/she is/isn’t comfortable with in the birth plan, and will literally sign off on it. This is the time where A LOT of women realise that perhaps their doctor’s beliefs aren’t in line with their own and they feel at a crossroads. A doula can help with this by talking through a woman’s options, whether that be adjusting their expectations or looking for another caregiver who is more in line with her beliefs.
Some sample birth plans
Quite often I will send my clients these samples to give them an idea of important things to consider when birthing in Singapore, and a lot of them will just use these templates. It’s a good tool to get women thinking about their baby’s birth, and it encourages a dialogue about what is important to them. For example, some women have no idea what vitamin K is and don’t realise that they can actually decline it.
Whilst the options chosen in these samples may not be what everyone chooses, it is important to note that with every part of a birth plan there are many, many options. You’ll note that even between the two water birth examples there are major differences in the style and language. If I were to include every option, you’d need pages and pages of space.
Downloadable birth plan templates:
- Birth Plan Sample 1 – Water Birth
- Birth Plan Sample 2 – Water Birth / HypnoBirthing
- Birth Plan Sample 3 – C-Section
- Birth Plan Sample 4 – Unmedicated Natural Birth
The best laid plans…
Two final key thoughts, mama: While it’s absolutely crucial to do your research, know your options, and make sure you’re on the same page with your doctor, it’s also worth remembering that circumstances can change in an instant. Remember to be flexible and don’t sweat the small stuff; the last thing you want is disappointment over a birth plan detail clouding your experience of giving birth.
Secondly, don’t ever feel silly or self-conscious about your ideas, because the world’s most ridiculous birth plan already exists!