Planning a pregnancy can be overwhelming. There is a lot to prepare before baby’s big arrival, and it is easy to balk at what can seem like a never-ending list of things to do. Fortunately, writing a birth plan can get everyone up to speed in seconds – from your midwife to your mother, your doctor to your spouse.
This guide to writing a birth plan should streamline the process, so you can relax knowing you have thought about all the big decisions well in advance.
What should I include when I am writing a birth plan?
Where do you want to give birth?
There are three options when it comes to choosing a place to give birth: the hospital, a maternity unit, or in the comfort of your own home.
Mostly, it comes down to personal preference but there are some key differences between each option. For example, there is a slightly higher risk of complications at home as opposed to the hospital (9 in 1000 versus 5 in 1000).
Bear in mind that there are plenty of benefits to a home birth too, though. Some expectant parents like the familiarity of their own home, and second or third-time parents often feel more comfortable knowing that their other children are close by.
Who do you want in the delivery room?
Consider who you would like to be with you throughout your labour. You may be waiting for your little one for hours – so choose carefully.
Have a think about guest visits too. Some parents like to specify which of their family and friends can visit them in hospital, and when.
What birthing method would you like to use?
There are a lot of different birthing methods to choose from:
- What is an active birth? Mum keeps moving about and walking around while in labour.
- What are the benefits of an active birth? It is believed that gravity helps to get baby in position and keeps things moving. Active births are reported to make first-stage contractions easier.
- What is a water birth? Simply put, mum gives birth in water – usually a birthing pool.
- What are the benefits of a water birth? It is scientifically proven that warm water eases the pain of contractions and enables you to relax.
- What is a natural birth? Mum foregoes tablets, medicine and painkillers for a chemical-free – completely “natural” – birth.
- What are the benefits of a natural birth? Mum and baby may experience more pain but it also means that they will be much more alert afterwards.
- What is a high-tech birth? This is the official term for births assisted by technology or other apparatus, such as a caesarean section.
- What are the benefits of a high-tech birth? C-sections are controversial when they are not strictly required, but there are some benefits to them – such as reducing pain and the length of labour. There is, of course, risk of pain and discomfort after the operation.
What is the best position to give birth?
Like most things on this list, birth position comes down to choice. It can be tricky to decide when there are seemingly limitless options available.
Some mums choose to stand, others to sit, some to squat and others to kneel. You may also want to lie on your side, or with your back propped up by pillows. The choice is entirely yours – but comfort is essential as you could potentially be in this position for hours if labour is long.
Do you need any extra equipment or arrangements?
In some ways, giving birth today is quite different to your own parents’ experience back in the day. Nowadays, many mums like to get comfy with mats or beanbags once their waters break, because getting comfy could make delivery a little easier.
Others like to dip into a birthing pool, and it is particularly crucial you specify this in your birth plan, as pools are in short supply at public hospitals.
A newer, more luxurious option comes in the form of a labour, delivery, recovery and postnatal (LDRP) room. The room is kitted out for all stages of your labour, so you wouldn’t have to move about the hospital during labour. Generally speaking, this is more of an option in private hospitals.
Would you prefer a forceps or ventouse delivery?
Most parents would choose an unassisted birth but there are some situations where this isn’t possible, such as being too tired to push or if there are any complications with your baby.
In the spirit of expecting the unexpected, you can specify whether you would prefer a forceps or ventouse assist in your birth plan.
Be sure to consider these methods carefully as they come with risks such as bruising on baby’s head. However, considering assisted delivery can save lives, the risks are often worth it.
What’s the difference?
- Forceps – these are smooth metal instruments that look a little like tongs. The forceps are carefully positioned around your baby’s head, before the obstetrician gently pulls to help deliver your bundle of joy.
- Ventouse – a metal or plastic instrument, shaped like a suction cup, is attached to your baby’s head before the obstetrician or midwife gently pulls.
Do you want to make skin-to-skin contact?
Studies show that skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth can be soothing for baby. They are happier, have a more stable temperature and heart rate, and their blood sugar is elevated.
More importantly, skin-to-skin contact allows baby to assimilate with mum’s bacteria – which stands them in great stead for developing a stronger immune system.
Parents can still choose to have their baby cleaned before initial contact. There’s also the option of receiving your baby wrapped in a towel, or handed to you straight after cleaning. Make sure you know your options when you are writing a birth plan.
Early, delayed or optimal cord clamping?
Clamping the cord early (in the first 60 seconds) could deprive baby of up to 214g of cord blood.
If you opt for delayed cord clamping, your midwife will cut the cord after one minute and your baby could receive up to 50% more red blood cells.
Crucially, delayed cord clamping is fully compatible with Cells4Life’s exclusive cord blood banking processing method, TotiCyte. You can choose to do both, to protect your baby today and in the future. Just make sure to discuss delayed cord clamping with your healthcare professional before writing a birth plan.
How would you like to feed your baby?
Newborn babies may start small but they grow fast and need fuel to do so. Before birth, consider if you’d like to breastfeed or bottle feed. In recent years, studies have shown breastfeeding can be very beneficial in preventing asthma, allergies and improving baby’s wellbeing and immunity.
Alternatively, bottle-feeding is a good way for both parents to bond equally with baby and also to measure how much food their newborn is consuming each day.
On the subject of food, you will also need to decide whether to feed your little one on demand (when they get hungry) or on schedule (at set meal times). The choice is yours, but feeding on demand is believed to better ensure that baby is getting the amount of food they need.
What pain relief would you like to use?
When you are writing a birth plan, there is a range of pain relief options to consider that could help mums-to-be through a laborious labour, depending on pain threshold and preference.
Gas and air
- What is it? Mums are offered gas made of half oxygen, half nitrous oxide.
- What are the benefits of gas and air pain relief? Gas and air takes the edge off pain, rather than removing it entirely. Relief is fast acting, within 10-15 seconds. Doctors also let you control the gas yourself.
- Are there any side effects? There are no harmful side effects but some mums report light-headedness, sleepiness and an inability to concentrate.
- What is it? Pethidine injections involve inserting a drug called diamorphine into the thigh or buttock.
- What are the benefits of pethidine injections? Effects are long lasting, for about 2-4 hours, and pain relief is stronger.
- Are there any side effects? There are several short-term side effects which can affect both mum and baby; the injections can affect breathing if they are administered too close to birth, and also affect baby’s first feed.
- What is it? An epidural is a local anaesthetic, numbing the nerves that carry pain impulses from the birth canal to the brain.
- What are the benefits of an epidural? Epidurals provide complete pain relief.
- Are there any side effects? 1 in 100 women report headaches but more importantly, epidurals are known to sometimes prolong the second stage of labour.
- What is it? TENS stands for ‘transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation’. It involves using a mild electrical current to send little electric shocks to areas of pain.
- What are the benefits of a TENS machine? Machines are not proven to help with active labour but can reduce back pain at the beginning.
- Are there any side effects? There are no lasting side effects attached to using a TENS machine during labour.
Would you like to bank cord blood?
More and more parents are choosing to bank their baby’s umbilical cord blood, which is a rich source of billions of powerful stem cells. These can be collected and store for future therapeutic use, including in more than 80 approved therapies.
Deciding early about cord blood banking when you are writing a birth plan ensures that everything will be prepared for when you go into labour. A midwife or phlebotomist will be prepared to collect the umbilical cord for storage when the moment comes.
To set-up stem cell storage service with Cells4Life in as little as 24 hours, call 01444 873950.
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Find out more about cord blood banking by downloading a Welcome Pack now.