Sometimes called a ‘wildcard’ a birthplan can help psychologically prepare you for labour. What would you include on yours?
You may already have an idea about how you wish to bring your baby or babies into the world. A birthplan can be useful in considering the options available to you including where you wish to give birth, how you envisage giving birth, which methods of pain relief you would prefer, and who will be with you during labour. In reality, your entire plan may become redundant once you are in the throes of labour.
Most women say the greatest benefit of writing a birthplan is that it prepares you psychologically. Your birthplan will give you and your partner, the midwives and the doctor/obstetrician an aim to work towards. Some of these factors you may feel strongly about and may wish to highlight.
The first thing to consider is your environment. You may wish to give birth:
- at home
- in a hospital labour suite
- at a birth centre
Who do you wish to have present at the birth?Wherever you plan to have your baby, do you wish to have your partner with you? If so, do you wish for him to be there throughout labour and birth? Does your partner really wish to be present?
Discuss this together openly, including any misgivings either of you may have. Some partners may be eager to be present and be fabulous support throughout. Others dread the thought of witnessing their partner in pain and covered in blood. Think practically about what is suitable.
In many cultures, birth is something that is attended by women only. Research carried out has revealed that if a woman is accompanied by a woman birthing partner, there is less need for pain relief and labour is shorter, with less medical intervention. The babies are in better condition at birth.
More and more “doulas” are being used at births around the world. The Greek word translates to “female birthing companion” and marks a return to ancient and tribal custom. So if your male partner prefers to be on the other side of the door, maybe it’s a wise decision.
Do you wish for a family member or friend present? If you already have children, have you considered where they will be during the labour?
If you are having a hospital birth, check the hospital policy as there may be a limit of how many people can be present.
Do you plan to use a complementary therapist? Do you want a birth coach to guide you through? Do you want a paediatrician on hand?
Where would you like to experience the most part of your labour? If you are planning a hospital birth, and depending on how far away the hospital is, some obstetricians prefer you to remain at home until you can no longer talk. What equipment would you like?
Do you need a birthing stool? Water tub? Birthing bed?, A Swiss ball to bounce on?
Would you prefer to try natural pain relief methods such as acupuncture, acupressure, massage, relaxation, breathing, water submersion? Or would you prefer gas, pethidine, an epidural?
Would you consent to being induced if you pass your due date? If so, would you prefer an intravevous drip, artificial breaking of the membranes, acupuncture, herbs, an enema, or walking?
In the second stage of labour, you may be advised to have an episiotomy. Would you consent or risk or prefer a tear?
How would you like to give birth? Semi-reclined, side-lying position, squatting, hands and knees or standing upright?
Would you like to watch the birth in a mirror?
Would you like the birth recorded on video? Do you want your birthing partner to take photos?
Again, check the hospital policy.
Would you consent to vacuum extraction or forceps?
If a Caesarean section was necessary, would you prefer a general anaesthetic, an epidural so you’ll be awake, or a spinal block?
Would you like your birthing partner to catch the baby?
Do you wish for the umbilical cord to stop pulsing before it is cut and clamped?
Do you wish for your partner to cut the cord?
Do you want the vernix coating to be washed off completely? The vernix is nourishing for your baby’s skin and will absorb easily if left on.
Would you prefer to deliver the placenta naturally without an injection? Do you want to see it before it is disposed of?
Would you prefer all your baby’s testing procedures to be done in front of you?
Providing you and your baby are healthy, would you prefer to be alone with your partner and baby in the hour following the birth? Research indicates that this is the most crucial moment for parents to bond with their newborn. An important element in this is skin to skin contact.
You may wish to enhance your environment with any of the following:
- You may wish to have present:
- a video camera
- an ordinary camera
If you wish to give birth in a hospital, your next decision is whether you opt for private or public medical care.
In deciding who will be at the birth with you, consider whether or not your birthing partner could withstand the sight of gore and blood. This is inevitable in a birth.
If you and your partner decide to both be at the labour, write your plan with him and allow him to speak on your behalf.
Visit your local hospitals during your pregnancy and ask a lot of questions. Choose to have your baby at the hospital that feels most comfortable to you.
Your midwifes and obstetrician have much more experience at birth than you do.