How To Write Your Birth Preferences

Have you thought about writing your birth plan?  You might have an idea what your ideal birth looks like but don’t know how to put it in words?  Look no further, here is our guide that will make writing it up a breeze!

First of all, I like to refer to a birth plan as birth preferences.  That’s not watering it down in any way or taking your choices away from you.  Absolutely not.  It simply comes down to language, making working with medical staff much easier because it shows that you realise that birth can take a multitude of paths and respect their expertise!  Medical staff are dedicated to providing a safe, healthy birth and they will do all that they can to keep your preferences in mind as well.  Remember that they are your birth team, not the bad guys so keep it polite and friendly.

Keep it as brief and simple as you can.  Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? I mean, how can you possibly not write a novel with all these thoughts in your head?  Simple.  Skip the whole sentences and beautiful language! Bullet points or a simple matrix are great and brief, concise statements are your best bet.  Put key phrases in a bold font and choose an easily legible layout.  If you really need something that looks beautiful, use picture icons!  Keep in mind, you are not offending anyone by being brief, you are maximising the information you can get across in a short space of time.  Midwives and doctors are super busy people, the more they can take in while glancing over your Birth Preferences the easier it will be to communicate with them during labour and birth.

So, what does NOT belong in your Birth Preferences?  Basically, anything that’s in your control and totally up to you - like your labour playlist or what you plan on bringing with you from home (think your own pillows, what kind of drink etc.).  Focus on what you would like your midwife and doctor to know and what’s not already standard policy in your hospital.  For example, if you would like your baby to receive a Vitamin K shot after birth, then you don’t have to state that - it’s already practiced routinely anyway and will only take up much needed space and clutter your information.  Should you NOT wish for that shot to be administered, however, or wish for Vitamin K to be given orally, you will need to put that in as it is not standard practice and your care providers need to know.

But how can you find out about hospital policy?  Most hospitals offer a tour of the maternity ward as part of their antenatal course, take it and ask questions!  If you are looking for more in depth information and someone who is able to focus on you only, hire a Birth Doula who is familiar with your local hospital.  Having a Doula is like having a personal guide for your pregnancy and birthing experience. Our Birth Doula package includes at least one antenatal visit and a Birth Preference preparation session where we can discuss your wishes, help you understand policies and options and assist you in preparing an effective tool for communicating with your midwives and doctor.  If the whole Doula package is more than you think you are currently looking for, contact me to book a Birth Preference preparation session only!

Remember that your Birth Preferences are not a rigid document.  Birth can take many paths and not everything always goes according to plan, sometimes changes need to be made.  Typically they are small, but it is always good to have a plan B in case complications do arise.  Have you thought of writing a set of Birth Preferences for the unlikely event of a Caesarean Birth?  Should one become necessary during labour, it is difficult to even know what your wishes are if you have not given it any thought beforehand and even harder to communicate.  As with any type of birth, it’s best to know your options.  Discuss your preferences with your partner and with your health care providers ideally at the start of your third trimester.  And, of course, consider hiring a Doula for support, someone to remind you of your confidence in communicating your wishes and to help you make your own decisions that you can feel good about.

When it comes to handing out your Birth Preferences, ideally have them with you for your antenatal appointments and make sure that they are being put on your file.  Always have spares and be ready to give them to every midwife you deal with, don’t just assume that because it’s on your file it has actually been read.  Make sure your name, your partner’s name, your consultant’s name and your Doula’s name are clearly listed at the top.

Need some ideas? Use our free printable Birth Preferences Worksheet!