Birth Plan vs Birth Preference

Birth Plan vs Birth Preference

Mum-to-be Chloe Hunt has been a practising midwife since 2014 after training at UWE Bristol.  She currently works in an Acute Maternity Hospital in Bath which has a birth rate of around 6,500 births per year.


“My role as a midwife is never the same day to day and is full of the unexpected, it can be a very emotionally and physically demanding job but ultimately it really is the best most rewarding job in the world. I get to care for new mothers and families at such an intimate time in their lives and help to bring their new baby into the world. Even over 300 births later, each one is still just as special”.


In this week's blog Chloe offers expert advice on the key things to consider when planning for labour and birth...


Birth plan means precisely that; a plan about how you desire your labour and birth to be. Few moments in life are as exciting as giving birth, however this moment can also be unpredictable. I often tell women that having ‘birth preferences’ rather than a ‘birth plan’ is more desirable as often the unpredictability of childbirth can sometimes lead to false expectations, disappointment or feelings of failure if some or all objectives of a ‘birth plan’ cannot be fulfilled.


Every perspective mother and father have birth preferences, even if they aren’t written down or at the forefront of your mind just yet. I’m keeping my own pretty simple: I want a healthy baby and an open mind about pain relief options available to me. How in-depth you go with your own birth preferences is up to you – but ultimately making a note of them in some way is a unique view of what is most important to you on one of the most empowering days of your life.


Your birth preferences will also enlighten your midwife and other members of the healthcare team caring for you – and enables them to participate in achieving a positive birth experience however your birth journey transpires. By thinking through what’s most important to you, maintaining clear communication with your midwife/doctor and being flexible, your labour and birth will end just as you pictured – and remember that our main goal is the same as yours:  a healthy mum and baby.


Alongside planning with your birth partner and midwife there are plenty of online templates which you can use as a guide when making note of your birth preferences. Below are a few points you may wish to address:


Where would you like to labour and give birth and who would you like with you?


• Are you having your baby at home, a local birth centre or hospital?

• Birthing partners/doula – bear in mind most birth centres/hospitals allow a maximum of two birthing partners.


Birthing environment


• Lighting e.g. dim lighting, candles, LED battery operated candles (if in birthing unit or hospital), fairy lighting

• Sound e.g. hypnobirthing CD, a specific pre-made playlist or your favourite CD

• Aromatherapy oils – please check for safe usage of these in birth setting beforehand


Equipment: what would you like available to you during your labour and birth to help you relax?


• Birthing ball, swing or stool

• TENS machine

• Home comforts e.g. specific pillow, hot water bottle


What positions would you prefer for labour and birth?


• Upright position e.g. standing, kneeling, squatting

• Birthing pool

• Lying down: adopting a left or right lateral position


Pain relief (please bear in mind different trusts offer different methods of pain relief)


• Hypnobirthing

• Water

• TENS machine

• Oral pain relief e.g. paracetamol, dihydrocodeine, oral morphine

• Diamorphine/Pethidine – Intramuscular injections

• Epidural


In the event of needing an assisted delivery (forceps or ventouse) or a caesarean section then you may have specific wishes, such as:


• Ensuring your baby still has delayed cord clamping

• Birth partner announcing the sex of baby if unknown

• Lowering of any drapes for you to witness the birth of your baby

• Immediate skin to skin with baby following birth

• Music to be played in theatre


In conclusion, birth preferences can be really helpful for you and your birth partner to plan what is important to you, as well as informing those who are caring for you during labour about your wishes. If your birth doesn’t go exactly as you thought it might, there are always things that can be incorporated in some way.



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