Planning your birth can be an exciting time for parents-to-be, and being informed of the different choices available to you can help you to feel at ease. Having a birth plan can make your stay feel even more personal and tailored towards your needs.
There are two different types of care available: A midwife-led birth or a consultant-led birth. If you’re not at risk of any complications, a midwife-led birth may be suitable for you. A consultant-led birth would be appropriate for you if you are at risk of complications, or if you just want the peace of mind and you may even choose your own consultant.
Dr Penny Law, consultant obstetrician gynaecologist at The Portland Hospital, explains the different options available for your birth plan:
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan or 'wish list' is a written suggestion of aspects of your delivery that are really important to you.
Many women do not write one - but doing so in advance of your due date can give you the opportunity to discuss your wishes with your midwife or doctor.
The key thing is to expect the unexpected in childbirth and it is much better to be prepared for all eventualities. There is no 'right' way to give birth other than aiming for the safe delivery of a healthy baby.
What should be included in a birth plan?
You can start to discuss your birth 'preferences ' with your healthcare professionals from about your 30th week.
- Outlining who your birth partner is and how they will support you
- What you like to be called
- What atmosphere you want in the room (e.g. quiet with minimal disturbance, background music, dim lighting)
- Pain relief preferences (e.g. you want to try to labour without pharmacological methods but have not ruled out an epidural)
- If you are happy for your obstetrician or midwife to suggest artificial rupture of the membranes if your labour is taking a while to progress
- Whether you have strong feelings about an episiotomy or tear
- Whether your partner wants to cut the umbilical cord (many partners change their minds when they see blood!)
- Whether you want to receive an oxytocin injection to speed up the delivery of the placenta.
You may also want to consider hospital policy on breech births, birthing pools, eating and drinking through labour and wearing your own clothes.
Your birth partner should be involved with planning your birth, so that they are aware of what you want and can be your advocate when needed.
What are the top three birth plans you see at The Portland Hospital?
Birth plans at The Portland tend to be very flexible as women and their consultants or midwives have had many appointments to discuss preferences before the due date.
Water births are popular particularly with women who have been to hypnobirthing classes.
Many women, even if they are having a planned caesarean section, prefer that their baby is placed straight onto their chest (skin- to - skin) and that there is a short delay in cutting the cord to ensure that the baby receives as much of the cord blood as possible.
How can antenatal classes help you to develop your birth plan?
Ante- natal classes can be really helpful in preparing for the arrival of your baby, covering what to expect in the pregnancy and birth as well as some basic parenting skills to help you in the first few weeks.
The classes are likely to cover:
- Specific exercise to do in the lead-up to birth to help with your flexibility and strength during labour
- The physiology of labour (what happens to your body during the birthing process)
- The different breathing techniques to help you in the stages of labour
- Pain relief options
- Caesarean section (more than lip service should be paid to this method of delivery as it accounts for 25-30% of all deliveries)
- Induction methods
- Water births
- Assisted births
- Caring for your baby immediately after the delivery
All of this information can help you shape your birth preferences, and classes are a great way to meet other soon to be parents.
What happens if my birth plan can’t be followed?
Sometimes, in planning the perfect birth- just as in planning the perfect party or wedding- the reason behind your preparations can get lost in the detail.
Although your midwife and obstetrician will try to adhere to your birth plan as much as possible, sometimes a medical situation arises that needs a quick decision to be made.
When time allows you to be involved in decisions, you should listen to professional advice, even if this goes against the preferences listed in your birth plan.
Top tips from Dr Penny Law
- Keep an open mind
- Walk about as much as possible (most epidurals allow you to do this!)
- Ask for analgesia earlier - an epidural takes about 30 minutes from start to effective relief
- Practise holding your breath for 5-6 seconds at a time in anticipation of the second stage
- Picture yourself holding a beautiful baby
Our team at The Portland Hospital are always on hand to answer any queries or concerns you may have about your birth plan.
All efforts will be made to ensure your birth plan is followed, however circumstances may change and for safety reasons the plan may not be followed.
For more information on your birth plan choices, please see our website.