Why and how to create a birth plan?

A birth plan is an effective way of taking an active part in preparing for childbirth. Among other things, it allows you to inform yourself and make your own choices. It's all very well to have well-defined ideas, but it's important to be flexible.

Pregnant woman sitting cross-legged on a bed

Don't forget to download your birth plan template, which you can fill in quietly with your partner before discussing it with your midwife or the team at your chosen birthplace.

What does it actually do?
A birth plan is first and foremost a tool for YOU. It allows you to write down everything that's on your mind, your ideal birth, your desires, your refusals. Put everything you want into it, without thinking about "what people will say" or protocols. Having a birth plan will open the door to communication with your partner. In fact, we each have a personal vision of the birth and immediate post-natal process, and the plan will enable us to pool certain ideas, refute others, discuss them and probably discover that certain points that seem obvious to you may not be so obvious to your partner. Preparing a birth plan will also help you learn about certain practices and protocols, wherever you're going to give birth. Above all, it will highlight the wishes and important aspects for the future parents, so that the nursing staff can take note of them and respect the key elements... as far as possible.

Do I need help to write it?
Parents-to-be can do all the research and drafting on their own. Nevertheless, it's worth discussing it with a midwife or doula to confirm to parents what is and isn't possible (in hospital settings, for example), what is and isn't negotiable, and it's also a way of making sure that parents know why they're making certain choices. For example, if the parents want the cord to be clamped late, the doctor or midwife reading your plan may ask you "why do you want to wait at least 10 minutes before cutting the cord? At that point, knowing how to answer the question will give you more weight in the eyes of the person reading it, and show that you have informed yourself. Discussing it with professionals will also help parents to think about certain points they may not have considered. 

Practical and logistical
The birth plan must be easy to read and your intentions clearly stated. To present it at the maternity hospital, for example, be sure to create it in advance, so that hospital staff can keep a copy in your file. Don't forget to put it in your maternity bag for the big day, and for your partner if necessary. Your partner is the person after you who knows your wishes best, and who will ensure that the plan is respected when you are no longer able to look after it. Don't forget to prepare one too if you're having a scheduled caesarean - absolutely E-SS-EN-TIEL!

I made a birth plan and nothing went according to plan.
If there's one event that NOBODY can predict, it's a birth. That's why it's so important to be flexible, ready to negotiate and, above all, to accept that you can't control everything. To avoid unpleasant surprises, disappointments and even traumas (for example, an emergency caesarean section under general anaesthetic, when you had planned a totally physiological birth, can be very difficult to live with). If, however, you put your ideals down on paper, but are aware that things may turn out differently on the big day, the experience is bound to be a little better. The birth plan is not a fixed element, but can evolve over the course of the pregnancy and right up to the moment of delivery. A plan drawn up at the beginning of pregnancy will not be the same as one drawn up after attending a birth preparation course. You don't owe anything to anyone, and you can change your mind at any time! 

Rebeca Foëx-Castilla
Mom of Ethan, Amos and Numa
Doula graduate
Read her MotherStory