Monthly Parenting Magazine

Are Birth Plans a Thing of the Past?

Are Birth Plans a Thing of the Past?

birth plan

We look at the offering available for mums-to-be at the Kensington Wing and discuss what is important when planning your birth

Pregnancy can be a confusing time. Masses of information and unfamiliar medical terms are presented to expecting mums at every turn, so a birth plan may seem like a way of taking control during labour. But the concept is being questioned by midwives and women as it can be disappointing when things don’t work out as planned.

Essentially, a birth plan is the document an expectant mum might compile with her obstetrician or midwife, detailing what she would like to happen during labour. Many websites offer a template, and antenatal classes and hospital guides often encourage mums-to-be to put pen to paper. But is a birth plan really necessary? The thing is, birth plans often list processes that, all being well, happen as standard in labour, such as skin-to-skin contact when the baby is born.

Sandy Devaney (Matron of The Kensington Wing) recommends, “doing your own research so that you are informed and have meaningful conversations regarding your birth preferences and options. A birth plan feels rigid and fixed and a meaningful conversation should lead to a birth preference. However, do not panic if you do not get round to deciding your preferences as you will be listened to throughout your pregnancy journey.”

Management of pain
Pain relief variables are one of the topics typically covered by birth plans and can advise on the levels of medication a woman might choose to receive, if any, during her labour. But this is one area where it’s worth being open-minded and flexible when planning your birth.

Assisted delivery
The area of assisted delivery can be a non-negotiable point for many women, and understandably so given the unfamiliar language and the seemingly invasive explanations. Some labours may require a vacuum device or forceps to help the baby out of the birth canal. These procedures can seem intimidating, but often can be necessary. Where a woman becomes tired from pushing, forceps can deliver a baby in three minutes and are used when the baby’s heart rate drops to worrying levels. Medical staff will make a continual assessment on the clinical indication and you and your baby’s safety.

birth plan

Where can you plan?

It’s worth remembering that the medical staff are the experts, but there are areas where you can work together to ensure your birth is as special an experience as can be. At the Kensington Wing of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, the first decision a mum-to-be will make is whether she wants consultant-led care or midwife-led care. Whichever is chosen, both teams will be on-hand to answer questions and advise on the birth. With consultant-led care, you and your bump are carefully assessed to identify any risk factors for complications during the pregnancy and to ensure the pregnancy is developing as expected. The midwifery team is on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week to offer advice and support, and, together with an ultrasound specialist, will carry out all pregnancy screens and checks.

The Kensington Wing also supports the use of complementary therapies alongside its wide range of conventional methods. Some mums may opt for acupuncture, acupressure and aromatherapy massage, while others may decide on reflexology and herbal remedies. The choice here is yours.

Opt for a birth preference, not a birth plan

Discussing a birth preference with your midwife gives you the chance to ask questions and find out more about what happens in labour. But what you don’t want is to create a defensive document merely stating the things you don’t want to happen. Think of the birth preference as a set of guidelines for your midwife, rather than rules, and remember to keep things positive.

To find out more about the options available at the Kensington Wing, click here.