3 Birth Plan Writing Tips & Free Birth Plan Template Download
Updated: Oct 4, 2023
This blog covers:
Why birth plans are a good idea...
Think about a time in your life when you have ever done anything big, like get married, go on holiday or move house. I’m pretty sure before doing any (or all) of these things that you’ll have researched, looked at your options and planned what would be best for you.
Birth is no different. But often you will hear people say things like “there’s no point planning for birth, it’s unpredictable" hearing phrases like this when talking about birth can be disempowering.
Absolutely birth can be unpredictable but plans can evolve and change. Your birth plan doesn’t have to be set in stone, equally a birth plan isn’t a tick sheet where you’re aiming for each statement to be met exactly in order to feel like you had a great birth. You can always change your mind and adapt to evolving situations.
The act of sitting down, to research and think about your options and choices, and work out what is most important to you, is where the power lies.
When creating your birth plan, the act of sitting down, to research, think about your options and choices, and work out what is most important to you, is where the power lies.
The more you know about your options, the more options you have. You are taking control of your decisions, before birth, meaning when the time comes you can feel more relaxed that you have already put in the legwork. Also, there is no such thing as “not allowed”, you are the person who does the allowing.
Benfits of writing a birth plan:
You aren’t being a diva, you are helping your Health Care Provider do their job.
By writing a birth plan you are taking the opportunity to:
Think about your ideal birth (Plan A) and what is important to you, AND what’s important to you in alternate birth scenarios - Plan B or C.
Discuss your plan with your birth partner. This will help them confidently support you and advocate when you need it. This is really important. Birth partners need to be the absolute expert in your birth plan. (whilst also understanding that you may completely change your mind, and that's ok)
Discuss your birth plan with your health care providers. This helps them best support you – you aren’t being a diva, you are helping them do their job. By letting them know what you want you are far more likely to get it.
Birth plan writing tips:
(Download my birth plan at the bottom of this and use it as a guide, if you like)
Tip 1: Write multiple birth plans:
If your birth does evolve away from your plan A, it's often possible for many of your choices to remain at the forefront of your care.
Plan A – your ideal birth, considering this = more likely for it to happen,
Plan C – Caesarean birth, even if the idea of birthing in theatre is the farthest from your ideal, I would always recommend giving a caesarean birth plan some thought. According to 2021-22 UK NHS maternity figures, caesarean birth account for 35% of all births, with 1 in 3 caesarean births being category 2 (unplanned or commonly called 'emergency'). If caesarean becomes an option for you, you have already given it some thought and it’s not such a shock.
Plan B – Alternate option – e.g. Induced labour – NHS 2021-22 figures: induction rate 33%, increasing 11% over 10 years, being offered an induction is a possibility, the choice is ALWAYS yours.
By thinking about what is important to you, if your birth does evolve away from your plan A, it's often possible for many of your choices to remain at the forefront of your care.
Tip 2: Make it easy to read:
Your birth plan will ideally give whoever is reading it an easy-to-read guide to what is important to you, being clear and to the point. It doesn’t need to look super fancy. You could use headings or bold text to help, here are some heading ideas:
Introduce yourself, this sets the tone for how you’re feeling and the birth you would like. If you have been practicing hypnobirthing it’s a good idea to tell your Health Care Provider to give them a heads up. You can also introduce your birth partner or partners.
Language matters and words can create physical responses in our bodies.
Sometimes people request to use alternative words or phrases to asses comfort during labour, instead of being asked about pain levels, they might request to be asked about the intensity or sensations instead. If you prefer for contractions to be called waves or surges this is a great place to put this too. It’s completely up to you and how you feel. There is no right or wrong.
This can be broken down into two sections,
Where you want to birth your baby: e.g. home, birth centre, labour ward (hospital - obstetric unit), theatre, birth pool, active birth room.
How you want your birth environment to be:
Think about things that can boost your oxytocin, your birth super hormone, which is a shy hormone and thrives when you feel calm, safe and unobserved.
Comfort measures you would like, detailing them helps your Health Care Providers best support you during birth. You could also request not to be offered pain relief, stating you will ask if I require any.
Monitoring & Interventions:
You could write whether monitoring and interventions are something you would or wouldn't want to accept. e.g. membrane sweeps, routine vaginal examinations, foetal monitoring... (remember, if you say you do / don't want something and then change your mind this it totally ok)
You could request all questions, in the first instance, be directed to your birth partner to avoid you being disturbed and help you remain in your para-sympathetic nervous system (the system needed for birth to progress) as well as requesting time to consider individual risks and benefits of any interventions before proceeding.
Birth: First & Second stage
Where you want to birth your baby?
Do you want to be active and upright while birthing or laid on your back?
Would you like instinctive or coached pushing?
Who would you like to reveal your babies gender?
Birth: Third stage
Would you like skin-to-skin?
Would you like optimal cord clamping?
How would you like to birth your placenta?
Who would you like to cut the cord?
Care of baby:
Would you like routine checks to wait until the 'golden hour' is over?
Would you like vitamin K for your baby? would you like vitamin K in injection or oral form?
This list isn’t exhaustive, you don’t have to write about everything, or you can add in other sections that are important to you.
Your birth plan is all about you and what is most important to you and your birth.
My final tip is...
Tip 3: Print multiple copies and make it a birth partner job to hand them to your health care providers.
You may not have met the midwife or doctor who is caring for you during labour and birth so making it a birth partner responsibility to give them your birth plan allows you to focus on you and your baby.
I go into much more depth about the science and evidence of birth preparation as well as building your hypnobirthing skills tool kit during my hypnobirthing courses.
I'm always happy to chat.