Birth Plan


Knowing what to expect during labour and birth can help you to get ready and deal with your labour experience.

Examples of ways to prepare for labour and birth are; write a birth plan, know the differences between true and false labour, learn relaxation techniques, and about the stages of labour.

Having someone with you to share in this exciting experience and to offer you support and encouragement is vital.

Birth plan

What is a birth plan?

A birth plan is a written guide that describes your wishes for labour, birth and the care of your baby after birth. Discuss your wishes with your partner or support person and consider preparing your birth plan together. Get it ready ahead of time and remember to share it with your health care provider.

Why is a birth plan important?

Your birth plan is important because it:

  • helps you to think about your options and to make decisions ahead of time
  • may open up discussions with your partner or support person about your choices
  • informs your doctor, midwife, or nurse of what you prefer to happen (or not happen) during labour and birth

Your health care team will do their best to respect your choices.

What should be included in a birth plan?

Your birth plan can be as basic or as detailed as you would like. You may want to include:

  • where you plan to give birth (hospital or home)
  • who will be with you during labour and birth
  • your feelings about having your labour induced or augmented
  • whether you would like to move around during labour
  • what positions you want to use during labour and birth
  • your feelings about medications and pain relief during labour
  • who will cut the umbilical cord
  • your wishes about holding your baby and breastfeeding immediately after birth
  • how you want to feed your baby
  • any religious or cultural practices

Things to keep in mind

It is important for you to:

  • be aware that it is not always possible for every part of your plan to be followed
  • write down what you prefer to happen if things do not go as planned
  • listen to your doctor or midwife and be open to suggestions or changes
  • be aware of possible medical actions and their common side effects (such as narcotics for pain relief that could make your baby sleepy and affect his or her ability to breastfeed right after birth)

Sample birth plan

Use a template, create your own, or write it out in paragraph form.

For More Information:

Caesarean birth

A caesarean birth (c-section) may be scheduled before the start of your labour or after it has started if there are problems during labour.  It is performed by a doctor by making a cut into your abdomen to birth the baby.  It is important to talk with your doctor about your chance of having a caesarean section and what to expect.  

You may need a c-section if:

  • Your cervix does not open fully or labour is not regular
  • You had a previous C-section
  • Your baby is in a breech or transverse position
  • Your health is at risk, as in the case of serious illness like toxemia, preeclampsia, or severe cases of diabetes
  • You have active herpes lesions that make a vaginal birth unsafe for your baby
  • You are expecting twins or triplets (babies are in an awkward position)
  • Your baby is too big to fit through your pelvis 

Anesthetics used

  • You will likely have an epidural anesthetic
  • You will probably be awake during the surgery
  • In most hospitals your birth partner is allowed to be with you during the procedure
  • In some cases, such as an emergency, a general anaesthetic is given where you will not be awake during the birth and your partner will not be allowed in the operating room 

After your c-section

  • You will be given pain medication to make you more comfortable
  • You will have an IV in your arm and a catheter in your bladder. These will be removed once you are drinking well and able to get up to go to the bathroom
  • You will either have stitches that dissolve on their own, or staples that you will have to have removed
  • You will have a longer hospital stay
  • You will need help at home for yourself and baby. Ask for help when you need it
  • Do not lift anything heavier than your baby.  This includes other children 

Risks you may encounter after a c-section

  • Infection from the surgery
  • Complications from the anaesthetic
  • Pain from the surgery

For more information:

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Preterm labour

A normal or term pregnancy lasts 37-42 weeks. Preterm labour is any labour that starts before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Preterm labour may lead to a preterm birth, meaning your baby is born too early.  Your baby will have a higher risk of health problems the earlier he or she is born. Some preterm babies are very small and may not be strong enough to live. Preterm labour can happen in any pregnancy, even if you are healthy and do all the right things.

You may be more at risk for preterm birth if you:

  • Had a preterm baby before
  • Are carrying more than one baby, for example twins
  • Are a smoker
  • Are underweight
  • Are not getting enough healthy food
  • Have a lot of stress in your life
  • Have a vaginal or bladder infection
  • Have had several miscarriages
  • Do hard work

It is very important for you to know how to recognize if preterm labour happens and what to do.

Important signs to watch for:

  • A sudden gush or a constant slow leak of fluid from your vagina
  • Bleeding from your vagina
  • Bad cramps or stomach pains that don’t go away
  • Contractions
  • Lower back pain/pressure, or a change in lower backache
  • Pelvic pressure (feeling full or heavy “down there”)
  • Increase in discharge from the vagina
  • You may just feel that “something is not right”

If you have any of the above signs, go to the hospital right away.

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