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What Should You Include in Your Birth Plan?
Pregnancy and the birthing process can be overwhelming — especially for a first-time mother. Being able to plan a little and decide what you want during such an important and emotional time can be reassuring. This is where a birth plan comes in handy.
A birth plan is essentially a written checklist that tells those who care for you during labour what kind of experience you’d like to have, what you’d ideally want to happen and what you want to avoid. It’s important to keep in mind that the labour and birth process can be unpredictable, so you’ll need to be flexible around some items.
It’s a good idea to create a birth plan as you’re nearing your due date, at perhaps 33 or 34 weeks. I usually give my Glengarry Patients a birth plan checklist to make the process of producing an individualised birth plan easy for them.
Here are some items to consider:
Before and During the Birth
Your Support Team
This is a time when you’ll need support around you. It doesn’t have to be the same person through the whole process. You could have your mum and your partner present during labour and just your partner during the birth, for example.
Aim to make yourself as comfortable as you can and feel free to bring things from home. You can wear your own big T-shirts or loose dress instead of hospital clothes or bring your own relaxing music. Also think about whether you will take photos and note down to bring the equipment along.
These are contractions felt days or even weeks before the birth, and very common in pregnant women. We will give you a choice between being sent home, staying in as an overnight admission for pain relief and monitoring by the midwives, or being admitted to possibly have an induction if the painful false contractions don’t settle. You can put this in your birth plan, or you can decide at the time if it happens.
A spontaneous labour is one that starts on its own, without any intervention. While this is the process women usually experience, it doesn’t always pan out this way. In some cases, induction may be needed for medical reasons, or some patients will request one. There are many reasons patients may request an induction, including discomfort, anxiety or time restraints with the father’s FIFO work.
There are different positions and movements you can try during the labour process to make yourself comfortable. These include using a beanbag, a stool, or an exercise ball, taking a shower, or walking around.
This is a big one that all patients ask about. Gas, pethidine injection, a TENS machine or an epidural are all available. If you’re opting for an epidural, you have two options: have it placed as soon as you arrive so you can request pain relief when you’re ready, or you can choose to wait until it’s needed for it to be placed. Also record if you don’t want pain relief at all. With any of these, you may change your mind during labour, depending on how you feel. This is completely fine and you are entitled to change your mind at any time.
When it comes to pushing, you’ll naturally move into what position feels best. However, thinking about different positions will help you plan ahead. You may like to be:
- Semi-reclining on the bed
- Lying on your side on the bed
- On your hands and knees.
Your midwife can also make suggestions during birth.
During the Birth
The moment your baby arrives is special and how you experience it is up to you. Think about whether you’d like to view the birth with a mirror or to touch your baby’s head as it crowns. You can also make decisions now about your surrounds. Would you like to have a quiet room, have the TV on for background noise or have some music playing? Again, this is completely up to you and what best suits your needs.
These days, partners are more involved in the birthing process. You may like to have your partner cut the cord or deliver the baby’s shoulders.
After the Birth
Cord Blood Banking
This is the blood from the umbilical cord that contains stem cells. If you want to bank this, you will need to make arrangements beforehand.
After Birth Contact
Note down whether you’d like to have skin-to-skin contact immediately and have your baby placed on your chest.
When your baby arrives into the world, you have the choice of breastfeeding, bottle feeding or a combination of the two.
Private hospitals often allow your partner to stay overnight with you. At Glengarry, patients routinely stay for five to six days after delivering their baby, to ensure they have recovered well and feel confident in their parenting skills before discharge. You can decide whether you’d like to have a bed made available for them until a double bed is available.
You should discuss all of these with your obstetrician and ask for their advice. You may stick to your birth plan completely or you may find it entirely flies out the window once you’re actually in the birthing process, but the choice is yours either way.
Glengarry Private Hospital provides a comprehensive maternity care service to assist you beginning from the antenatal stages of your pregnancy. Contact us today to find out about our maternity services. Dr Ashley Harris is a Private Specialist Obstetrician.