Three cheers for birth plans *hip-hip hooray*

A few months ago, we went on an overseas family holiday. We booked our flights in advance, chose our seats on the plane, booked travel insurance, researched car hire companies, looked at the weather, what towns and cities we wanted to visit all before we even left for our holiday! I spent time researching the trip to best suit my family and our circumstances. Sure, we could have just 'winged it' but then we risk not sitting together on the flight, accommodation with no twin beds, having a minor car accident without insurance, arriving without the appropriate weather gear..... you get my drift. So why would we not apply that same method for our births? So why do people scoff when you tell them you're preparing your list of birth preferences? Planning your birth isn't so much about having a 'plan', it's about the process. Researching and understanding birth, your rights and ultimately deciding what kind of birth you want to have can only work in your favour!

There is a great article by Professor Hannah Dahlen and Bashi Hazard Don't throw the birth plan out with the bath water. "Mothers report their birth plans are criticised or outright rejected on the basis that birth is “unpredictable”. There is no logic in this. If anything, greater planning would facilitate smoother outcomes in the event of unanticipated eventualities. In truth, it is not the case that these care providers don't have a birth plan. There is a birth plan – one driven purely by care providers and hospital protocols without discussion with the woman."

Your birth preferences don’t have to be huge, just a few dot points is quite fine so your care providers know what your wishes are. Sometimes during pregnancy or birth, we may face some special circumstances where some of our preferences can't be met and that’s ok, because you have done your research, you have a new plan for that too! Professor Hannah Dahlen has said "I once had a woman make three birth plans when she found out her baby was in a breech presentation at 36 weeks – one for a vaginal breech birth, one for a caesarean and one for a normal birth if the baby turned. The baby turned and the first two plans were ditched but she had been through each scenario and carved out what was important for her."

So what are some things you may want to think about before writing your list of birth preferences?

  • Do you want music or aromatherapy in the room?

  • Do you want to wear your own clothes or a hospital gown?

  • Do you want to use water or the bath for pain relief?

  • Do you consent to vaginal exams?

  • Tearing versus episiotomy.

  • Fetal monitoring; intermittent or continuous?

  • Pain relief - what is an epidural? What about morphine or pethidine?

  • Have you read the research on delayed cord clamping?

  • Do you want to remain active during labour?

  • What is your opinion of artificial membrane rupture?

  • Have you read up on the most common induction techniques? Prostaglandin gel, balloon catheter, artificial oxytocin.

  • What is an instrumental birth?

  • Who is going to announce the sex of the baby?

  • Do you or your birth partner want to catch your baby?

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Renee Bradfield, Perth WA

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