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Top tips for writing a brilliant birth plan

Do you believe in writing a birth plan? Or do you think it's not worth writing one, as what will be, will be?

Believing it's not worth having a birth plan assumes that birth is something that happens 'to' us rather than from within us. It assumes that we have no control over what happens during our birth, and that the people looking after us will make the right decisions for us. This is not true! Being prepared, informed and trusting in your body all contribute to you having a positive and empowering birth experience, on your terms.

The benefits of having a birth plan are many:

  • In my opinion, the value of a birth plan is in the actual making of it. Writing your plan for birth involves you understanding, researching and considering your options in a number of different areas. This is hugely valuable as an exercise to enable you to feel informed and prepared

  • Having your birth plan written down enables key information about your preferences to be shared quickly between different care providers. This is especially useful if there is a shift change in midwives, you transfer between departments in a hospital setting or you have multiple care providers looking after you during birth

  • We know that talking, making decisions and having conversations engages our neocortex and rational brain, which is what we want to quiet during birth. Having a birth plan enables your care providers to know your preferences without asking, enabling you to stay focused within yourself, quiet your conscious mind and stay in a relaxed state

  • Without a birth plan and considering your options, you're likely to be asked to make decisions about yourself and your new baby during your birth. This may be the first you have heard about these options, and you may feel unprepared to make those decisions. Having a birth plan means your preferences are outlined upfront after careful consideration

Writing a birth plan can feel daunting, but breaking it down into different sections and knowing your choices within each one can help it feel manageable. There are many different templates available online, but ultimately your birth plan should reflect you. In my opinion it is better to write something from scratch in your own language that reflects your own ambitions for your birth rather than using a generic template you have found online. If you are planning for a vaginal birth, you may like to break your plan down into three areas (you may decide to name these differently);

  1. First stage of labour (surges are helping your cervix to dilate)

  2. Second stage of labour (surges are helping to move your baby through your birth canal and out through your vagina)

  3. Third stage of labour (birthing the placenta)

  4. After delivery (newborn care)

If you are planning for a caesarean birth, you may like to break your plan down as:

  1. Prior to delivery (preparation for surgery)

  2. During delivery (in theatre)

  3. After delivery (newborn care)

The contents of these sections will differ for everyone, however there are five top tips for writing a birth plan that I believe are consistent for all:

  1. Be clear and concise - be aware of who will be reading your plan and when. If you are planning to birth in a hospital setting you may arrive at the hospital in established labour. You will want your midwives to be able to quickly see the information that is important to you, rather than sifting through pages of notes.

  2. Write it with your birth partner - it's important that your birth partner fully understands what is important to you during birth, and knows how they can best support you. There will also be parts that you will want to agree on together, such as whether you both want skin-to-skin contact with the baby, or when to cut the umbilical cord. Writing it together will make sure you are on the same page for these important decisions.

  3. Be mindful of your language - use respectful and open language in your birth plan. Your care providers are there to support you and will do their best to make your birth experience as you wish; but respect the fact that this may mean changes to the way they usually operate. You are working together as a team and they will bring many years of qualification and experience to the party too.

  4. Stay true to you - this birth plan is yours and yours alone. Make sure you know your options and do what is right for you and your family. Want all the drugs? Go for it. Would prefer to birth on land rather than in water? Great. Hypnobirthing isn't about making your birth look a certain way, it's about knowing your choices, informing yourself and making the decisions that are right for you. Never feel pressured by others experiences or plans.

  5. Consider plan B - birth can be unpredictable, and so it is worth thinking about what you would like to do in case your first preferences are not available to you. This could cover things such as birthing environment, your preferences in case of intervention or your wishes in case of a caesarean (if you are planning a vaginal birth). Thinking about your options ahead of time will help you to be prepared and manage any changes to your birth plan. No matter how your journey to birth unfolds, know that the hypnobirthing techniques and knowledge you have learnt will support you to have a positive birth experience

I hope that you have found this useful - leave a comment if you have! If you need any help writing your birth plan or would like to know more about your choices during birth, please get in touch for a chat. I'd love to help you feel ready to birth!

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