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Giving birth to your first baby is a once in a lifetime experience, so you’ll want to ensure you’ve considered everything.
From birthing positions and pain relief to playing music during labour, writing down your preferences in a birth plan will keep your partner and midwife informed of your wishes.
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A birth plan states your preferences for both labour and birth. It gives you the chance to think about your hopes for the birth and also provides the midwife with a guide to the kind of birth you'd like. You can include as much detail as you like and make changes at any time, before or even during labour.
If you’re attending antenatal classes, it’s likely that you’ll talk about birth plans. Alternatively, you could ask friends who have recently had babies what they recommend including. It’s a good idea to research pain relief options too, so you know what to expect. And, if you’re planning to give birth in hospital or a birth centre, it’s a good idea to find out which facilities are available.
- Your birth partner
State who will be with you in labour and whether you want them with you at all times.
- Labour and birth positions
Would you like to be moving around, using a birthing ball, or on all fours? Think about how you might be most comfortable.
- Pain relief
Breathing techniques, water, gas and air, or epidural? List the pain relief you’d like to use and the order you’d prefer it in, and state any methods you don’t want to use.
- Where you’d like to give birth
Hospital, birth centre or home, where would you like to have your baby? If you choose a home birth, make sure your midwife can attend.
- Assisted birth
If you need help giving birth, state whether you’d prefer forceps or ventouse.
- Feeding your baby
Make sure you state how you plan to feed your baby.
- Unexpected situations
If your baby has to go to a special baby care unit, how involved do you want to be with their care?
- Medical conditions or disabilities
Include any information about medical conditions or disabilities that can help your midwife on the day.
- Cultural or religious needs
If English isn’t your first language and you need an interpreter, let your midwife know. If there are any religious or cultural practices to be carried out after your baby is born1, include these.
- Other considerations
- Ambient lighting, uplifting music, whose voices your baby hears when they enter the world… think about the whole experience and add as much detail as you want.
Start preparing for your baby’s arrival now – download our printable birth plan template.
If you already know you’re having a c section, there are some extra things you can add to your birth plan template. Some c section birth plan examples may include whether or not you’d like the screen lowered, or whether you’d even like a screen at all, so that you can see your baby being born.
If you have a low risk pregnancy, you may choose to have a home birth. It’s important to check with your maternity unit to see whether a home birth is possible, and if you are able to have a home birth, you should still pack a hospital bag just in case. You can find out more about home birth here.
Dr Sarah Jarvis
Dr Sarah Jarvis, is a qualified GP and an active medical writer and broadcaster, with a lifelong interest in women’s health.
As well as being the resident medical expert on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show, during the coronavirus pandemic, Dr Sarah Jarvis has been appearing regularly on BBC 1’s The One Show, ITV’s Coronavirus: Q&A and Channel 5 news giving expert advice about all aspects of the pandemic.
Last reviewed: 20th May 2020
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