So you’re in the final stretch and you’ve been asked to compose a birth plan—but do you really have to?
Before you sigh that you thought your days of homework were done with—no, you don’t have to write a birth plan. Unless you want to, of course.
Traditionally, midwives expected mums-to-be to detail a lengthy document with all of the above, but now, it’s generally understood that the individuality of each woman—and the uniqueness of each pregnancy—does not always fit with a super-structured approach.
“Some women like to plan their birth and some don’t,” explains Lia Brigante, Quality & Standards Adviser at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), “and it is entirely up to the woman if she writes a plan down or not.
“What is important is that you discuss your pregnancy and birth with your midwife, and ask questions, so that you can make the decisions that are right for you – and this will of course be different for everyone.”
The pros of a birth plan include becoming more informed about your options. If you’re sidelined by a sudden change in the labour situation, it can be less scary if you’ve done some reading on scenarios other than your ideal vision of birth.
On the other hand, clutching to a birth plan can prevent you from going with the flow; which is important because birth doesn’t always follow rules. If you feel like you might get totally caught up in the idea of a candlelit water birth, you could risk major disappointment if you have to deliver differently.
The point is to be flexible. Write the plan, or don’t. Have at least a general sense of what your priorities are—and decide on this in the relative ‘zen’ before contractions start!—but be prepared to give in to nature.
“Whatever’s on your birth plan, you can change your mind about what you want at any point,” says Lia, “and your midwives will support you in this.”