A birth plan is essentially a written description of how the parents-to-be envision their ideal birth process. Your birth plan should cover all the key aspects of birth (for example, the type of birth preferred, whether to use painkillers when in labour, breast or bottle feeding for the newborn, amongst other areas).
While most parents dive headfirst into reading parenting books, decorating the nursery and picking out baby clothes, many may neglect to plan for the most important part - the birth process. Creating a birth plan should be a ‘must-do’ on the list for expectant mums and dads- and here are the key reasons why:
Getting buy-in from the experts and support network
Committing your ideal birth process to paper is the first step to having an open and frank discussion with your obstetrician on the details of how you would like the birth process to be. While a birth plan allows your doctor to better understand your preferences, you should rely on their expert advice as well. For Linda, a first-time expectant mum, penning the birth plan was a useful start to discussing birth options. She had stated in her birth plan that she wanted to have a natural birth, and while her obstetrician agreed with her, he also shared some possible instances in which a Caesarean section might be necessary. As this was her first pregnancy, the advice was an eye-opener and reassured her that she was in capable hands.
A birth plan also serves as a good way to prepare your support network (such as your family members and confinement nanny), on your preferences. For example, you might want to stipulate that you do not want any visitors for the first day post-birth, in order to have privacy and bonding time with your newborn. Briefing everyone ahead of time minimises miscommunication and creates a smoother birth process and recovery period for mum and baby.
Remembering the important details
Having a birth plan makes it easier to remember important details. The birth process is a hectic time and crucial elements maybe omitted. Karen, a mother of one, shared that she planned to exclusively breastfeed her newborn son from birth. Due to complications, she underwent a Caesarean section rather than a natural birth which she planned. However, as she shared her plan to breastfeed in a written birth plan, the attending nurses at her maternity ward were extra-attentive, and provided her with all the additional support she needed to exclusively breastfeed her baby.
There are various elements to consider when creating your birth plan:
The type of birth you would like to have
For many parents, natural birth is the preferred choice – and medical experts encourage this as the best option. In some cases, due to medical conditions, you may want to have an elective Caesarean section.
The use of painkillers
Some expectant mothers opt to use painkillers when they go into labour, while others prefer not to. Your obstetrician will be able to advise you on the various types of painkillers and relief methods available and help you to make an informed choice.
The labour environment
In Singapore, most births take place in a hospital. Hospitals offer maternity ward tours where expectant parents can view the labour environment and choose the one that best suits their needs and budget. Most importantly, the expectant mum needs a calm and soothing atmosphere while she is in labour. The choice of birth partner, birthing accessories, music or even motivational pictures can make the experience as comfortable as possible.
Infant feeding options
Research has shown that breastfeeding offers the best nutrition for newborns. If you have decided to exclusively breastfeed your infant (this means that formula feeds will not be provided as a substitute), include this in your birth plan for extra support and guidance from the nurses and in-house lactation consultant.
Cord blood banking or donation
Storing or donating cord blood are increasingly popular choices for new parents, as there has been a fair amount of publicity explaining the usefulness of cord blood. Parents may choose to store cord blood in a cord blood bank, in case it is needed in the future to treat genetic disorders. Some may also donate their cord blood to help others in need – this can be done safely at no additional cost.
Remember, share your birth plan with your obstetrician and support network as early as you can, and be prepared to refine your plan based on feedback received. Each pregnancy and delivery is a unique experience, and while it is important to be prepared, expectant parents must also be flexible and willing to adapt to changing circumstances.
Advice from the Expert
Gynaecologist and Obstetrician Dr. Ann Tan of the Women and Fetal Centre shares 3 tips on creating an effective birth plan.
- When creating your birth plan, do your research early in the pregnancy, allowing yourself ample time to ask questions and clarify doubts with your obstetrician. Dr. Tan emphasises, “the best birthing plan arises from an honest and open chat between the parents and the obstetrician so as to clear the air on what the parents would like to see happen. But ultimately, there must be adequate faith in their chosen obstetrician to act in the best interests of the couple and their baby”.
- Attending antenatal classes is a good way to keep abreast of the latest options available during the birth process. Expectant parents will learn more about the various birth scenarios and how they can have a smooth pregnancy and delivery as well as connect with other parents who are on the same journey.
- Keep your plan simple, clear and actionable for your family, friends and the medical experts. For example, instead of writing, ‘I want a peaceful and quiet atmosphere’ for the recovery period, you could state that you only want your spouse present in your hospital room for the first day after your child is born.
We thank Gynaecologist and Obstetrician Dr. Ann Tan of the Women and Fetal Centre for her views expressed in this article.