Your birth plan communicates your preferences for labour, birth and the immediate postnatal period, to the midwives and doctors who may look after you.
It is important to remember that a birth plan is a flexible document. It is a list of preferences, which your midwife will work with you to keep to. However, it is possible you may move away from your original plan if your choices or circumstances change on the day; or for the safety of you and your baby. This is why it is a good idea to have a full understanding of all directions your labour might take, so that you can make informed choices ahead of time. Some of the topics you should research include:
- Where you want to give birth
- Who you want to support you as a birth partner
- What pain relief options you might like to use – or not – including natural pain relief options like water and massage
- Different birth positions
- How you want your placenta delivered
- How you plan to feed your baby
- What happens if things don’t go to plan and you or your baby need a little more medical attention.
There is a lot to think about, and it can be a bit of a minefield knowing where to look for good quality information that will help you make positive, informed choices that best suit your individual circumstances.
- Firstly, speak with your community midwife and any friends who have recently given birth in the local area – they will be able to help you with lots of the practical information.
- Find quality online sources of information. Some good examples include www.babycentre.co.uk or www.emmasdiary.co.uk and of course www.newlifeclasses.com!
- Finally, one of the best places to get the information you need to help you plan your birth preferences is by joining a local antenatal class. Ideally go for a class which is midwife-led and focuses on delivering evidence-based information. Check our classes page to find a local antenatal class near you. This page includes links to our free antenatal course and digital antenatal courses for anyone living outside of Bristol or Bath. Alternatively, the NHS offer a few hours for free too, speak to your community midwife for more information.
Free download: Communicating your birth preferences booklet
Download our free booklet, it includes:
- A pull-out birth plan template.
- A double page spread of birth positions for each stage of labour, including information about your breathing and the birth partners role for each position.
- A list of things to think about and sources of high-quality information.
- Some things to think about when choosing your perfect birth partner (or two).
- The important role of your birth partner
- What are the benefits of different birth positions?
- Video: How to stay active in labour
- The benefits of aromatherapy in pregnancy and labour
Look after your emotional wellbeing too!
Where a birth plan focusses on your physical and practical choices, a wellbeing plan focuses on your emotional health and wellbeing. Pregnancy is an emotional time – it can leave you feeling anxious, unhappy and in some cases mentally unwell. It’s important to recognise your feelings and seek help early, if you need it. This plan helps you think about the support you may need to look after your mental health and wellbeing.
If you are feeling anxious or mentally distressed, please don’t suffer in silence. You are definitely not alone, and there are amazing organisations who are on hand to support you, including:
- PANDAS – The PANDAS Foundation offers specialist support for pre and postnatal depression. Their help line number is: 0843 289 8401.
- MIND – MIND is a mental health charity. Their help line number is: 0330 123 3393.
Bristol and Bath
- Bluebell – Bluebell is a local charity who supports both men and women suffering from anxiety and depression both in pregnancy and post-birth.