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The ultimate birth plan check list.

So what’s the deal with birth plans? Are they brilliant? Or slightly bananas?

I’ll admit I didn’t have a birth plan. In fact, the first time I ever did it, gave birth that is, I pretty much went in blind.

I knew the practicalities of what was about to happen to me but as for what I wanted to help me actually get me there, I really didn’t know. Don’t get me wrong, I’d attended the antenatal classes and watched (and could never unsee) the footage of the German woman screaming in the bathtub as she gave birth, but that was about as far as I’d let my brain actually think about the whole process.

When prompted by the midwife at our last lesson to write a birth plan, I honestly didn’t know what to write. I, of course, being a naïve and young mother, intended to do it “naturally” i.e. vaginally and without pain relief but I also was well prepared to accept any kind of help the minute it got dicey. In short, I was VERY open to drugs.

Emily Blunt didn’t have one.

As I sat down and listened to some of the other couples present their plans, however, I realised that a little preparation probably wouldn’t be such a bad thing. For instance, one Mother told the class she was planning on listening to Enya and inhaling lavender oil whilst standing up for her delivery. I, of course, inwardly rolled my eyes at this idea but in hindsight, I realise that if this ended up working for her, then great, even if personally Enya would have sent me over the edge.

Recently when asked about her own birth plan, actress Emily Blunt was quoted as saying “I don’t really have one, to be honest.

“The nurses were like, ‘Thank God’ – they’re used to women who come in and say, ‘I want this music playing when the baby comes out, I want this candle, these flowers’.”

But what exactly IS a birth plan? Quite simply, it’s a way of communicating with the midwives and doctors who care for you in labour, to tell them what kind of birth experience you would like to have. ‘Like” being the operative word here. What you’d like and what you end up with can be two very different things.

What then, as an imminent parent, are you supposed to include in your birth plan?

1. Birth companions

Who do you want to be with your during labour and ultimately, the birth of your child? I know personally that at one point I had discussed having my three closest friends in there with me. God, was I wrong. So, SO wrong. In the end all I wanted was complete privacy (besides my husband). That’s just me but maybe, have a think about who exactly it is that you want to include in that intimate time of your life. Keeping in mind you should have no stress in that room during this time. None. Write down who you’d like to be with you during labour. Do you want this person to stay with you all the time, or are there certain procedures or stages in labour when you’d prefer him or her to leave the room?

2. Positions for labour and birth

Now here’s where I admit I pretty much never left the bed. I was pretty much on my back and not really helping the whole gravity situation at ALL. I did however spend copious amounts of time under a hot shower trying to escape the constant rolling contractions. This didn’t really work, of course, but it was, at the time, a great distraction. In your birth plan, I suggest you mention which positions you would like to use during labour and for your baby’s delivery. Also, indicate how active you would like to be: would you like to remain upright and mobile for as long as possible, for example, or would you prefer to be in bed.

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3. Pain relief

Look, I had none okay. Three births, zero pain relief. Before you hate on me, this IS NOT because I didn’t ask for it. Or beg for it. I did, please don’t think I am some kind of earth mother, I just simply left it too late and was ultimately denied any help. Best I can suggest is to investigate ALL of the pain relief. There is no “right” or “wrong” way. Just do whatever feels best for you. Perhaps on your birth plan, suggest what kinds of pain relief you want to use, if any, and in what order (for example, you might prefer to try pethidine before an epidural).

4. Monitoring your baby’s heart rate

This was the BEST bit for me, of labour. There I was, in full blown labour, almost breaking my husband’s fingers with my grip and one of the things I remember most is watching that little baby’s heart rate being scribbled away in front of me. Say how you want your baby to be monitored during labour. Write down whether you would like your midwife to listen to your baby’s heart intermittently using a hand-held device or whether you want electronic monitoring using a belt strapped round your waist.

5. Assisted delivery

You might want to express a preference for forceps or ventouse if, at the end of labour, you need some help to deliver your baby. Sometimes this will be out of your control but it is also handy to advise your midwife and/or obstetrician about your preferences on this.

6. Third stage (delivery of the placenta)

You can choose to have an injection to speed up the delivery of the placenta, or you might want to say that you prefer to have a natural third stage without drugs. I myself have a photo holding my daughter, smiling like a loon whilst the nurse is injecting my leg to speed this whole process up. Word from the wise, this injection will be the last thing you will be thinking about at the time.

7. Feeding the baby

Look, when that baby comes out you aren’t going to know the first thing about breastfeeding and that is SO okay. If you are adamant you want to breastfeed, put it in your Birth Plan but remember if this can’t happen, for whatever reason, your baby will still be fine. YOU will still be fine. As long as your baby is nourished and healthy, ultimately that is all that matters. For the record, I did and I didn’t. I had three very different children and they are all fine as a result.

I think perhaps the best advice I was given before I gave birth was to expect the unexpected. Sure, make a plan, make your wishes known and write it down but honestly, in the years to come you won’t be remembering what was written on that piece of paper. No, you’ll be enjoying that beautiful little chubby face you see before you.

Did you have a birth plan? Did you follow it?

This post was originally published on iVillage.com.au and has been republished here with full permission.

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