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  • Writer's pictureGillian Holmes

Why bother writing a birth plan?

‘Birth Plan’, ‘Birth Preferences’, ‘Birth Guidelines’… whatever you want to call it – have you written one? Or have you ever heard someone say ‘well, the Birth Plan went out the window!’? Perhaps that put you off trying to frame how you’d like your birth experience to go…


Until recently, there was a blank page in the paper ‘orange notes’ that were issued to pregnant women and birthing people. At around 37 weeks –usually not before – your midwife would have a meeting with you to go over your options and draw up a plan on that empty sheet. Badgernotes has changed that now with a series of online questions for you to answer.


But you will probably (hopefully!) have started to think about your wishes, hopes and aspirations for the birth of your baby long before then – setting them down on paper is the last stage in a detailed process of exploration. You might want to first consider how you want to feel and what you want the atmosphere to be like before starting to look at specific options. Thinking about all five senses can help: do you want music, birdsong or quiet? The voices of people around you encouraging you? What might you want to look at – maybe photographs from a holiday where you felt wonderfully relaxed, or pictures of loved ones including pictures of any children you have already, or maybe relatives who are no longer with you so that they can be there in spirit? Do you want candlelight, fairy lights or darkness? What might you want to inhale – fresh air through an open window or a favourite aromatherapy candle perhaps? What might you want to taste: what would be good to eat (small snacks) or drink (plenty of fluids!). And finally, importantly, consider the sense of touch: do you want birth partner/s to massage your back or stroke the hair from your face? Do you want gentle stroking on your arms or a cool flannel on your head? Are you thinking of using a birth pool?


Then start to picture where you would ideally like to be to achieve all of that – it might be different locations as labour progresses, if you’re heading into hospital for the birth. Think about the journey, if that’s the case, and how you can continue to stimulate all five senses in the car and continue to when you are in a hospital room.


This visualisation of your birth and thinking about how it might look, feel, sound, smell and taste, can be so helpful in empowering you to approach labour with a positive mindset. And one of the most important aspects is involving your birth partner/s in the discussions so that you are both on the same page. Then you can consider all the details: what monitoring do you want, what pain management options are you open to using, are there any cultural or personal rituals you want to include?


Because Badgernotes doesn’t have space for this sort of document yet, it’s still worth writing it separately and having a few copies with you when you’re in labour. You can discuss it with your community midwife if you want to, though they are unlikely to be with you in labour or pass your wishes on to the team supporting you on the big day – the first time those midwives see it will be when you call them out to you for a home birth or go into hospital. When they first meet you, midwives might ask to see your plan, if you haven’t already thrust it into their hands! But interestingly, even if you have given everything careful consideration, if there’s something on there that goes against your local hospital protocol (not having vaginal examinations every four hours, for example), they’ll probably ask you again, so that they know for sure that’s what you want - or don’t want. Once you’ve confirmed your decision though, having it in writing should be enough for birth partners to point at if necessary.


And what if your ideal plan changes? Well, think all of that through – what if you need to transfer in from a planned home birth for example, or if a Caesarean becomes necessary despite all your preparation for a physiological birth? Think about all these possibilities and what you can still bring to any situation to ensure that your birth is as positive as possible – going back to the five senses. What can you still have with you, wherever you are? Don’t throw the plan out of the window!

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