I have recently been given several reminders about The Birth Plan: when to write it (now); how to write it; and most importantly, what you should put in it.
The NHS actually sent me an email about this at 23 weeks – I suppose the idea is to have it in place once your baby becomes viable, although I expect that if it was born that prematurely then any plan would go out of the window. Nonetheless, I enthusiastically clicked on the useful template and began to complete the plan. Swiftly realising most of it was beyond me, I saved what I’d done (not much) and went on to other, more pertinent things such as where to find the best white linen maternity trousers.
Now well into the third trimester, our next midwife appointment is approaching and ideally we should have something concrete to discuss with her rather than just turning up with a few vague ideas. Askamum advises “don’t make your plan too rigid – it should read more like a wish list”. But how to know what to wish?
The three most important aspects that a birth plan should cover seem to be the following:
- Who you would like as your birth partner; how much you would like them to be present (for example, you can have them there for a natural birth but not a caesarean); and whether they can make decisions on your behalf.
- What you are willing to accept in terms of pain relief, if anything.
- Any special needs, religious beliefs or language requirements.
Of course there is loads of other information included in a birth plan, but those are what I have picked out as things you really HAVE to make a decision about beforehand.
Some women have strong opinions about where they want to give birth (hospital? Maternity unit? Home? In a pool?), how they want to give birth (natural or caesarean?) and what happens after the birth (placenta injection? Vitamin K?). Personally, I feel that all this is far less important than having a healthy baby, and am open to all options.
However, it is definitely a good idea to try and decide about things that might initially appear minor, but could turn out to matter at the time. For example, I’d been thinking that I didn’t care whether or not students were present during my labour. Then my Mum told me how off-putting it was during my sister’s birth to have a student there having every gory detail audibly explained to him by the doctor, while in the meantime she was struggling to give birth to a breech baby. Although supporting medical students is a nice idea in theory, it is worth considering whether you are ready to potentially feel like a lab specimen! Without a birth plan in place, you are largely at the mercy of the hospital staff.
What most birth plans have in common is that they rarely go to plan! Amber Rose wanted a natural birth at home, with her fiancé delivering the baby, but complications meant she had a c-section in hospital. I hear stories like this all the time, which while disappointing for the mothers involved, certainly takes the pressure off creating the perfect plan…