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“Should I write a birth plan?”

This month we talk with experienced midwife of 10 years and mum of two boys, Sarah Tooke who runs Sarah Tooke Childbirth & Parenting Education classes. Her aim is to empower expecting mums with the knowledge to have a positive childbirth experience and eliminate the fear that many new parents have about what's to come.

Here she shares her knowledge and expertise on one of the most asked questions: “Should I write a birth plan?”

I am often asked about the ‘best’ birth plan.

In the lead up to the arrival of your baby, a birth plan is one of the key things you will be considering. This document can be useful for outlining your preferences for birth. But a birth plan can also be a negative for your birth experience if things don’t go the way you hoped.

The truth is – there is no planning for birth! There is no sure way to know how you will feel at the time or what you will experience.

Generally speaking, the purpose of a birth plan is to:

  • Help expectant parents prepare for the physical and emotional aspects of the birth process
  • Plan ahead for how you want various situations handled
  • Provide a vehicle for communicating with each other and medical staff prior to the birth

It can be useful as a reference for medical staff caring for you, when you may not be able to tell them what you want. You may use a birth plan to specify what you want in terms of when and how you want things to occur, managing pain, post-birth care, and the role of your birth partner.

But birth plans are also heavily criticised by some, for a number of reasons including:

  • Being inflexible and restricting options
  • Using outdated models of medical care
  • Being too long for medical staff to read ‘in the moment’
  • Devoting too much attention to unimportant issues
  • Not including the possible cascading effect of interventions, such as continuous monitoring
  • Using phrases such as “unless medically necessary”— when the view of what medical staff believe ismedically necessary at the time contradicts

However, there is no doubt that education increases self-confidence and the ability to achieve your desired birth. The process of creating a birth plan is the ultimate in ‘patient centered care’ where you benefit from; exploring your choices, looking at available resources to help make decisions, and having a process for communicating with medical staff. In any medical scenario, open communication helps ensure the best possible outcomes. Birth plans can also help you express your desires.

It can be difficult to plan for something you have never done before, when you don’t know how it is going to go.

The best birth plans are developed in consultation with your midwife and childbirth educator. Here's what I help my clients do:

  • Explain the options available and show you how to research those options
  • Help you develop your own personal birth philosophy
  • Stress the importance of having realistic and flexible expectations regarding labour
  • Guide you through the resources available for developing your birth plan
  • Outline the key topics that should be covered in your birth plan, including pain relief and after-birth care

If used wisely, I believe birth plans can be an important tool in preparing for birth.

For detailed advice and assistance in developing your birth plan, click here to explore my online antenatal programs which all cover birth plans in further detail.

All the best,

P.S. I can't emphasise enough just how unpredictable labour and childbirth can be. Be flexible and remember the most important thing is a healthy mum and a healthy bub!


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