Writing a birth plan

Although no-one can predict how the birth of your baby will unfold, writing a birth plan gives you a chance to think about what is important to you, and may give you a better chance of having a satisfying birth experience.

If you haven’t already planned to, it may be worth considering attending birth preparation classes so you can discuss topics related to labour and birth in a safe environment with trained childbirth educators.

You may then feel more confident and informed about the decisions and choices you may have.

Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

The questions below cover some of the elements you might want to consider when writing your birth plan.

Discuss your wishes with your partner so you are on the same wavelength, and with your care provider to see how your wishes and their practice match up. Birth plans are not yet that common in Belgium, so tread gently when bringing up the idea with your care provider. 

TIP: Having a (translated) copy of your birth plan to give hospital staff when you’re in labour may help them to better meet your needs.

For a similar list of questions in French, see www.alternatives.be.


General

  • Under what circumstances would labour be induced, and how? What happens if I prefer to wait until I go into labour naturally?

During labour

  • Who can I have present during my labour? Partner? Doula? Physiotherapist? Family? Friend? What paperwork needs to be completed by my doula / physiotherapist?
  • Can I wear my own clothes?
  • When I arrive at hospital, am I expected to have an enema? Can I choose not to?
  • When I arrive at hospital, will the midwife automatically shave the area around my vagina? Can I refuse?
  • Will the midwife automatically place a perfusion? Can I refuse? If it must be placed, can it be left unattached (i.e. closed, and not attached to a drip)?
  • Instead of continuous monitoring of our baby’s heartbeat, can you check intermittently? If you must use continuous monitoring, is there a wireless device available?
  • During labour, can I walk around my room and/or the labour ward and find positions I am comfortable in?
  • Can I eat and drink during labour if I feel the need?
  • Can I take a bath?
  • Will you inform me before using any artificial hormones to accelerate labour?
  • If I choose to labour without an epidural, will I be supported, e.g. allowed to make noise, advised on positions, massage etc?
  • If the lights in the room are too bright, can we dim them?

During the birth

  • Can we have a minimum number of people in our room and keep the door closed?
  • Can I ask not to have medical students present, if I decide I don’t want this?
  • Can we ask that people speak softly?
  • Can I give birth in the position that I find more comfortable, whether that be on my hands and knees, upright, being supported by my partner etc?
  • Can I refuse to birth my baby on my back with my legs in stirrups?
  • When I’m fully dilated, will I be instructed to push or rushed into pushing? Or can I wait until I feel the urge to push? (though I will appreciate advice on breathing/refraining from pushing, to avoid tearing)
  • Can an episiotomy be avoided unless absolutely necessary, even if it means I tear slightly?
  • Will you apply pressure/warm compresses to my perineum to help avoid tearing?
  • Unless there is an urgent medical reason, can you explain the pros and cons of any intervention (e.g. forceps, vacuum)?
  • Will you wait until the umbilical cord has stopped pulsing before cutting it?
  • Can I/we see the placenta? If we want to take it home (e.g. to plant under a tree), is this possible? 
  • Can my partner be present if a caesarean birth is needed? If yes, and if the baby is fine, can my partner stay with me?

After the birth

  • Can I hold my baby as soon as he/she is born? Also in the case of a cesarean birth?
  • How long can I hold my baby after birth, before he/she needs to be weighed/examined?
  • Can staff leave us alone with our baby (though tell us how we can call for help if needed)?
  • Do you leave the baby in skin-to-skin contact for the first hour to initiate breastfeeding?
  • What examinations need to be done on our baby?
  • If the baby needs to be warmed, can he/she be placed on my chest?
  • Will our baby simply be wiped dry after the birth (leaving the natural protection of vernix), rather than bathed?
  • Can my partner dress our baby?
  • If my baby needs to go to the neonatal unit, will I be consulted before someone gives our baby a dummy/pacifier?
  • If I’m planning to breastfeed, can we refuse that our baby is given formula milk or sugar water, or any other food or drink?
  • If I’m hungry after birth (normal after such physical exertion), can I eat? Do I need to bring food or can I ask for a meal or snack in the maternity ward?

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