The birth of a baby is one of the most exciting and important events in a mum’s life. Just as each birth is unique, each mother will have specific preferences for her big day.
Creating a birth plan is a great way to make sure the doctor, parents, extended family and medical staff are on the same page. It is also a good tool to help you decide which hospital to deliver in if you’re still weighing your options.
Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Elite Medical Center Dr. Osama H. Salha says, a birth plan gives an expectant mother and her husband the opportunity to explore each step of the birthing experience, including possible interventions and coping techniques. It also keeps communication open between the care providers—physicians and midwives—and the mother.
“A birth plan is a simple, clear, one to two-page statement containing a list of the expectant mother’s preferences for labour and delivery.,” he explains. “It should be a wish list not a what-to-do list.”
To start your birth plan, ask yourself the following questions and discuss them with your partner.
- Do you want a natural birth, planned cesarean or vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC)?
- Do you have any medical history that the nurses should be aware of, such as group B strep, Rh incompatibility, gestational diabetes, drug allergies or complications with previous pregnancies/deliveries?
- Do you plan to use medication during labour? Are there other pain management techniques you would like to try—shower, exercise ball, music, focal points, massage or different positions? Does the hospital offer these options or will they allow you to bring your own items?
- Do you want a delayed cord clamping if the hospital will allow it? Do you want to save the cord blood?
- Who will be present during labour and delivery? Just your husband? Will you have a doula? What about grandparents, friends, aunts or older siblings?
- Would you or your husband like to have skin-to-skin contact with the baby immediately after birth?
- Do you plan to breastfeed or formula feed?
- What preferences do you have for infant care? Will the baby sleep in your room or the hospital nursery? Will you offer a pacifier?
- Will your baby receive vaccines according to the schedule in Qatar or your home country?
- If you need an emergency cesarean, do you have any preferences for pain relief?
Once you have answered these questions, you have most likely determined what you would or would not like to happen during your birthing experience. Armed with this information, you can start to create your birth plan. Here are some tips:
Discuss it with your doctor
Talk with your doctor about what a typical birth looks like for her or him. Your doctor should be able to give you an idea of how things will go and what you can expect. If your plan differs greatly from the doctor’s view, discuss it and come up with a plan that works for both of you. Having this conversation in advance can eliminate frustration during childbirth.
Visit the hospital
Most hospitals offer tours of the labour and delivery facilities. In the private hospitals, you can even request to spend time in an empty room to get acquainted with the space and help you decide on any other preferences you may want in your birth plan. Ask the hospital staff if pain management items like exercise balls, showers or massages are available or allowed.
It can take some time to get your birth plan together, so it is best to start on it early so you can feel confident it is ready when baby arrives. Even if this is not your first baby, you will still want to have a birth plan in place because you will have different nurses assisting with your delivery. Make sure your plan is easy to read and highlights the most important aspects that you wish for during the birth of your child.
With your plan in place, you will feel more prepared for the big day. Dr. Salha says, “An ideal birth plan allows for flexibility where the patient and physician communicate their views. If something comes up during labour that’s unanticipated, it still gives the obstetrician an idea on how the patient expects the experience to go.”
What to pack for the hospital
- Pillow, blanket, other comfort items
- Nursing pillow, pads, bras and nipple balm if you plan to breastfeed
- Post-birth sanitary towels
- Clothes to wear home (choose some smaller maternity clothes or loose fitting pants)
- Personal hygiene items
- Music, focal point, other pain management items
- Clothes for baby (check if the hospital has specific requirements)
- Gift for older sibling(s)
- Camera, phone or other personal electronics and chargers
- Journal or paper and pen in case you want to take notes