A birth plan doesn't dictate exactly how birth will go and it shouldn't restrict you to only one direction. Instead it lays out your ideals, your needs, your wants and just as importantly, your don't wants.
By planning your birth, you are also setting aside time to really think about what matters to you and allowing yourself time to make informed choices about your body and your baby.
Empowering yourself with information and making important decisions before labour begins can help you to be free, present, and focused on the birthing experience. It also gives you a greater chance of having a positive birth experience.
I believe that all birth plans should be as individual as the birthing mama so I don't have a 'template' as such but there are some important things to think about when considering your ideal birth. There also important things to think about if your ideal birthing plan changes.
Here are my how, what and where tips for creating a birth plan and why you should consider all of the options.
Let’s start with the How.
How would you like to give birth?
There are options for how you give birth to your baby and your choice might be based on preference, medical necessity, or emotional desire. These options will vary based on any past experiences and/or previous births.
Things to consider are whether you want to give birth vaginally or by Caesarean section. Remember, each option is equal and you do have the right to choose.
How you give birth has an impact on your birth experience and your experience as a new mama. This is why it is the first question to consider.
Also consider the whys. Why is one option preferable over the other and therefore what if your ability to birth safely one-way changes? What does the other option look like and how can you make it an acceptable choice? Considering the other option before it is a reality may help you to still have a positive experience even if your first choice goes another way.
Next is the What.
What kind of birth would you like?
What kind of comfort measures do you think will work for you? No matter how you deal with the feelings of birth, there will be some level of discomfort during labour. Planning how you want to manage those feelings will be very important to consider before the day comes.
It might be a little bit tricky to think clearly about your options once labour has started, so consider how you can manage labour when it begins. Natural and medicated comfort measures all have their own benefits and some have risks too, so it is worth understanding these before making a choice. Knowing the pros and cons can be especially useful if you want to review your comfort measures during labour.
Now you have explored the how and the what, you can explore the Where.
Where would you like to give birth?
The reason you have to explore the other two questions first is because these choices of how and what will have an impact on where you want to give birth. Giving birth in a hospital, birth centre, or your home will all have their pros and cons but they all differ in the kind of experience they can provide. Knowing what will be available to you in each location will help to make this decision easier.
It is also important to consider where you will feel safe and comfortable. Having a positive birth experience is very much about how you feel during birth as well as considering the practicalities.
Oxytocin is one of the main hormones that help your labour to progress effectively. It works best when you feel calm, relaxed and safe in your environment. Deciding where you are most likely to feel these things, will help you have the best birth you can.
And this is why understanding the pros and cons for all the options becomes so important. At a time where maternity policies have changed to manage the risk of Covid-19, our birthing options may look a little different and can vary based on where you are in the country and on the directives set out by your local authority. Finding out if your local birth centre is open or if there are midwives (and ambulances) available for a home birth, is more important than ever.
Plans A,B and C
When making your plan consider, that choosing one thing over another shouldn’t consign the less desirable options to the rejection bin. They might yet have a big role to play in your birth. Maybe make plan A, B and C in case things do change. Considering them and applying the same level of research to them gives you the power to arrive at your birth with knowledge, and therefore, confidence on your side.
And that is one of the most important things to do when creating your ideal birth plan; research. Find evidence-based information to inform your decisions.
Finding this information can sometimes be difficult and can also result in information overload. This is where support services like antenatal classes, hypnobirthing and hiring a doula can really help.
As a doula, I can help to inform the decisions that are right and individual to you as well as helping you to consider the ‘what ifs’. If you would like to have an informal chat to discuss any of this further or help exploring your plans, feel free to contact me or visit my Doula Support Page to find out more.
And remember, if you arrive at your birth and things do start to change, you can always engage BRAINS:
Benefits - what are the benefits of taking a certain approach?
Risk - what are the risks of taking a certain approach?
Alternative - are there alternatives to a suggested approach?
Intuition - what are your instincts telling you?
Nothing - what would happen if you did nothing?
Science and Smile- What does the science say? Or just smile!
I hope this helps you to start planning the positive birth experience that you deserve.