Until I actually became pregnant, I had never really considered how I would want my birth to go. I’ve always known certain things (for instance, that I don’t want an epidural) but as far as any tangible birth preferences are concerned, I had no comprehension of just how much there was to consider.
However, since getting those two little lines, I have made a conscious effort to inform myself about all possible labour and birth outcomes and eventualities. By doing so, I have empowered myself to make informed decisions about how I want my birth to pan out.
That being said, I quickly found that focusing so intently on my ‘birth plan’ was becoming stressful. I was hyperfocused on exactly how I wanted things to go, whilst simultaneously understanding that any number of things can change on the day. This turned into anxiety about how I would react if my birth didn’t go to plan and started to become a negative cycle!
Flipping The Script
That is until Siobhan from The Positive Birth Company made a great distinction as part of her Hypnobirthing Digital Course. She suggested switching the terminology to ‘birth preferences’ instead of ‘birth plan’ and this did the trick for me.
By considering my set of wishes and desires as flexible preferences, as opposed to a rigid plan, I was able to refocus on the positives, reduce my anxiety levels and start looking forward to labour again!
Birth preferences are entirely personal and you may be struggling to focus on exactly what it is you want. I have therefore mapped out what my birth preferences are below, as well as including a totally free printable ‘Birth Preferences Template’ at the end for you to fill out.
Give your birth preferences to your midwife, parents, doctors, and of course your birth partner. Whoever is supporting you through birth should be fully aware of what your birth preferences are – as they will be the ones enforcing them on the day with those around you!
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PRINTABLE Birth Preferences Template
The most important thing to remember when creating your birth preferences is that no matter where you end up giving birth, you still have a significant element of control over the environment – whether you’re having a home birth, a midwife unit birth, hospital birth or C-section.
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To help you get started, take a read of my birth preferences and then make your own decisions based on what makes you feel most comfortable! Remember, these are just preferences and you can change your mind at any time before, during or after your birth…
My Birth Preferences
Name: Cliona Keane
Birth Partner & Their Relationship To Me: Robert – partner
Due Date: 25th February 2019
Planned Place of Birth: Midwife-Led Birth Unit
Preferred Delivery Method: Vaginal, water birth
I would like to keep my birthing environment dimly lit. If in the midwife unit please dim the lights.
If in the hospital, please turn off the lights and use the battery operated ones that I have in my hospital bag. I would also like to use aromatherapy throughout my labour.
Please keep the room quiet and avoid unnecessary interruptions and internal exams. If possible, please communicate through my birth partner in the first instance.
Please keep any discussions framed in a positive way to avoid negative implications and heightened anxiety.
I will provide my own music to play during labour.
Medical Professionals Present:
Please keep medical contact limited to my own midwife/doctor/nurse. I am happy for a student midwife to be present but would prefer for them not to carry out any medical checks.
Pain Relief Preferences:
I would like to use the pool, alongside gas and air and hypnobirthing techniques to manage pain during labour. I do not want an epidural or spinal injection unless it is completely medically necessary (for instance in an emergency C-Section).
Birth Position Preferences:
I would like to give birth in an upright position and not lying down on my back. My preference is to give birth in the birthing pool, however, if I do not I would like to give birth on all fours or standing/squatting.
My First Stage of Labour:
I plan to spend as much of the first stage of labour at home. Once I am in the birth unit/hospital I would like to spend as much time walking around, using the birthing ball and in the birthing pool as possible.
Please remind me to use the toilet on a regular basis.
Please encourage me to use my hypnobirthing techniques to manage the pain.
Fetal Monitoring Preferences:
I would like to keep internal exams to a minimum and for fetal monitoring to be carried out using a Doppler unless the baby is in distress.
If My Labour Slows Down:
I would like to use natural methods, such as nipple stimulation, relaxation and aromatherapy to encourage labour to progress.
I would only like assisted birth if the baby is in distress.
When I am ready to push, I would like to push spontaneously as feels right for my body.
I would like to use breathing techniques instead of hard pushing.
I would like to push for as long as needed unless myself or the baby is in distress.
I would like to touch the baby’s head as it crowns and to use a mirror to see.
I would like an episiotomy ONLY if I am at risk of a third degree tear to redirect the tear to the side.
If there is significant tearing, and it is unclear whether the tear is second or third degree, I would like to be transferred to hospital for a surgical repair.
Receiving the Baby:
If I give birth in the birthing pool, I would like to receive the baby.
If I give birth outside of the birthing pool, I would like my partner to receive the baby with the assistance of the midwife.
I Do Not Want:
To have a catheter unless medically necessary.
I would like to wear my own clothes during labour.
Food and Drink:
I would like to eat and drink during labour unless otherwise advised by a doctor.
Post Birth Preferences:
I would like immediate skin to skin contact and to delay cord clamping.
I would like for my birth partner to cut the umbilical cord.
I would like any post birth checks that can be performed whilst the baby is on me to be done there, instead of taking the baby away to check. Please wait to weigh/measure the baby until after skin to skin contact.
I would like to breastfeed straight away.
I would like to deliver the placenta without medical assistance.
If medical intervention is required, I would like my birth partner to stay with me for the duration.
If possible, please can the lights to be dimmed at the moment of birth and the room to be as quiet as possible to allow for a less traumatic entrance into the world.
In the event of medical intervention, I would like skin-to-skin contact immediately unless there is a medical reason this cannot be done. I would like any checks that can be, to be carried out while the baby is on me. If I am not available for skin-to-skin I would like this to be done on my birth partner.
If a C-Section is required, I would like to do a vaginal swap to transfer onto the baby (in place of his journey down the birth canal). I would like to breastfeed immediately after delivery while the surgeons finish the operation.
During the C-Section, I would prefer my music to be played and for the room to be as quiet as possible throughout. I would like to take a flannel with calming scents into theatre with me.
Dietary Requirements: Not Applicable
Religious Beliefs: Not Applicable
Vitamin K Injection: I would like the injection to be given to the baby after we have had the first feed and plenty of skin to skin contact.
Baby’s First Bath:
I do not want my baby to be given a bath in the hospital.
I would like to breastfeed as soon as possible after birth.
I would like support from a lactation specialist after birth.
I would like to feed exclusively with breast milk but may also pump to allow my partner to feed.
If the baby is born in the day, I would like to go home as early as possible. However, if the baby is born in the evening I would like to stay until the morning.