Do I need birth preferences - AlphaBirth

Do I need birth preferences?

During your pregnancy you’ll hear a lot of discussion about “birth plans” or “birth preferences”. You’re probably wondering if this is something you should think about yourself.

The answer to this is a resounding YES! Here’s why…

Even before you feel that very first twinge, it’s a really good idea to have some thoughts on the kind of birth that you’d like. Not sure what that is yet? Keep reading!

Having birth preferences is a great way to organise your thoughts about labour and the birth of your baby. It also helps you figure out what is important to you. Thinking about all the different scenarios that might occur during labour and birth, and considering what your options might be at each stage is a really positive way of preparing for your baby’s arrival. Preparing in advance means you’re stacking the odds in your favour of having a calm, confident experience based on evidence-based care that is individual to you.

Occasionally you might hear someone say “oh you’re better off not knowing!”, but really that isn’t the case. Knowing your options, understanding what’s happening and having your birth partner on the same page so that they can advocate for you means that you are an active participant in your baby’s birth and part of the informed decision making process. The day you are in labour is not the day to be learning new information for the first time! Being informed means you’ll keep surprises to a minimum.

Birth preferences are also a communication tool between you and your caregiver on the day. Your midwife or doctor can quickly scan your birth preferences and understand the kind of birth that you would like and help facilitate that.

It’s important to remember that outlining birth preferences does not mean that you’re sticking to a rigid plan. Birth preferences are not guarantees, none of us can predict the future and babies certainly don’t read them! But there are many aspects of labour and birth we can express a preference on, including when things aren’t going as expected.

So what do birth preferences look like?

  1. Keep your preferences to one A4 page. Not only does this help you prioritise what’s important to you, it also means that your caregiver can quickly read your preferences – like just after a shift change – so that they can give you the care you would like.
  2. Use simple and friendly language. Your birth preferences are a communication tool so clear, concise sentences without unnecessary or provocative flourishes will deliver that message.
  3. Your preferences should include information on how you would like to labour – who would you like with you? What pain relief options would you like? How do you feel about routine interventions? What about vaginal exams and the pushing stage?
  4. You should include preferences for after the birth – will you be breastfeeding? Would you like delayed cord clamping? Would you like your partner to cut the cord? Would you like a physiological third stage where you deliver the placenta naturally in your own time?
  5. Including a section on special circumstances is also important, for example if you require any additional medical assistance or require a Caesarean section.

If your head is in a spin after reading all that, don’t worry! Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look in greater detail at each of the above points. We’ll go through the various options at each stage, take a look at the evidence and hopefully provide some food for thought for you and your partner as you prepare for the birth of your baby.

© Sylda Dwyer, AlphaBirth 2014.  Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the owner is strictly prohibited.