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Preparing your birth plan

Many aspects of the labour, birth and immediate postpartum period are unfamiliar to most people, so when preparing to give birth, women are often encouraged to consider their options in detail ahead of time. 

This process is also important as it ensures women make informed decisions regarding their care, rather than being forced into a sudden choice in the moment where they don't have the opportunity to consider all options. 

 

As you develop your plan through your pregnancy, discuss it with your carer and listen carefully to their reactions.  They should be supportive of your choices, but they may also offer alternative/additional information that they feel will help you have a complete understanding of your particular choices.  However, they should not make you feel like they will "allow" you to do what you're planning.  Their role is to ensure you have all available evidence based information and to then support your decisions, not to guide you towards accepting their common practice.  (See IMPORTANT, below for more discussion.)

The sorts of options you may want to consider include:

  • whether you would consent to an induction (increasing numbers of women have this suggested to them from 39 weeks)

  • who you want present during labour and birth,

  • options for pain relief,

  • whether you consent to vaginal examinations during labour,

  • whether you want water immersion for labour and birth,

  • delayed cord clamping

  • whether you want syntocinon administered to prevent postpartum bleeding

  • saving the placenta

  • minimising handling of the baby by others and other disruptions in the immediate postpartum period

Consider birth "mapping" rather than birth planning

New research by PhD candidate, Catherine Bell, is revealing the benefits of developing your own "birth map", rather than a plan, where all possibilities of how a labour can progress are considered.  For instance, if labour starts spontaneously, but then stalls, what then?  You can find out more about Birth Mapping here.

Make sure you plan for an unplanned unassisted birth as well

Even if you plan to birth in hospital or at home with a midwife, make sure you and your partner are comfortable with what to do in the event of a quick birth, or if there's flooding that is preventing you from leaving the home, or phone services are down, preventing you from contacting your midwife.  (Link to MCA Unassisted Birth resources)

And don't forget the postpartum period!

We spend so much time thinking about labour and birth, it's easy to forget that beyond those few hours, the really hard work begins after the birth.  See Postnatal care for more info.

 

IMPORTANT: International health consumer research has found that the more engaged a person is in deciding the options for their medical care, the better the outcomes, and maternity care is no different.  So take time during your pregnancy to visualise what you would like for your birth, as well as common interventions that could be offered to you.  "Offered" is the key word here, as no one can force you into any intervention that you do not want to have, but in the medical setting it can feel like you have no choice.  If you feel like you "must" accept a particular intervention, that is a sign of you not having the freedom to make informed decisions, and you may want to consider finding another carer who understands and respects women's rights to bodily autonomy.  The same applies if your carer speaks in terms of "allowing" you do something you wish for, e.g., go into spontaneous labour (i.e., without artificial induction).  

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