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18th Aug 2015

Expecting? Do you have your birth preferences ready?

Kathy Weinmann

Every day we make decisions about all sorts of things, and our decisions are influenced by our preferences. We all have a way in which we’d like something done no matter how big or small. So when it’s one of the BIGGEST events you’ll ever experience like birth, having preferences written in advance is a smart idea.

So, what exactly are Birth Preferences?

It’s a document that communicates what you would preferably like to happen during and after your baby’s birth, whether that’s in a hospital, a birth centre or at home.

The phrase ‘Birth Plan’ is still widely used, but I prefer the phrase ‘Birth Preferences’ because birth by its very nature is unpredictable, so by using the word ‘plan’ we may be putting ourselves at a disadvantage should the birth not go ‘to plan’.

Your Birth Preferences are a list of things you would ideally like to happen, not a set plan.

All maternity hospitals have their own policies, and they can differ, so do a little research to figure out what you would or wouldn’t like to happen around the time of the birth.

How do I write it?

There is no set way; they are your preferences, so it’s about what’s important to you, your partner and baby.

Many of us know what we don’t want, so when we get our brains into gear and start thinking about what we do want, it allows us to focus on positive outcomes, getting the mind in a great place for birth.

From a midwives perspective, it allows them a sense of how they can make your birth experience a positive one – if you haven’t stated any preferences, staff may work off their own policies.

Ask yourself, ‘What would I like for myself and my baby during my labour?’

Here are some examples of things you could include:

  • Thank you for reading through my Birth Preferences. I understand that because of the unpredictable nature of birth, not all of these may be met, but I appreciate your help in supporting myself, my partner and my baby, enabling us to have the most positive birth experience we can.
  • My husband and my Doula (name) are part of my birth team.
  • On admission to hospital, instead of CTG for Fetal Monitoring, I would prefer auscultation (by Doppler).
  • I would prefer minimal VE (vaginal exams).
  • I would prefer intermittent monitoring instead of continual.
  • Pain relief methods: I will be using a TENS machine, hot/cold compresses, the shower/bath, my birth ball and yoga mat, massage, acupressure points, listening to music/GentleBirth tracks through my earphones. When listening to music, unless it is necessary, I would prefer not be interrupted. I am aware of the pain relief options available in the hospital (gas and air, epidural and pethidine) and will ask for it if I want to consider using it.
  • I would prefer for my waters to release spontaneously rather than having ARM (artificial rupture of membranes).
  • I would like time for my baby to descend and would to use my own urges to push instead of being coached to push.
  • I would like a warm compress to be applied to my perineal area to relax and support it.
  • I would like to avoid the use of instruments (forceps/ventouse).
  • I would like to avoid having an episiotomy (surgical cut).
  • I would prefer a physiological 3rd stage rather than an actively managed one (delivery of the placenta with medication).
  • I would like delayed cord clamping (wait for the cord to stop pulsating) and for my partner to cut it.
  • I would like immediate skin-to-skin contact with my baby and would prefer to delay weighing or paediatric checks. I would also like to hold off washing my baby.
  • In the case that unexpected events happen, we wish for circumstances to be clearly explained to us and for us to be included in the decision making where possible.

If you plan to have a Doula (birth coach) for your birth, it’s a good idea to inform your midwife and consultant in advance and to inform the Midwife Manager in the Delivery Unit too.

Have a copy of your Birth Preferences in your chart and bring in one or two copies in your bag so they can be displayed in the delivery room for all staff to see.

Once you’ve written out these preferences you should feel prepared, calm and confident during the remainder of your pregnancy as you head towards the amazing and exciting event that is your baby’s birth.

Kathy Weinmann runs Bump Baby and Me in Malahide, Dublin, where she teaches Pre and Postnatal Yoga, Infant Massage Classes and Gentle Birth Workshops. Find her on Facebook or Instagram

Kathy writes as an expert on our fave baby product site,