Birth plans: Do we really need them?

The midwife looked at me with sheer horror as I repeated myself.

“You don’t have a birth plan?” She replied aghast, as if I had just told her our soon-to-be newborn would be sleeping in the garden shed.

“How do we know what you want?” She asked. I told her a healthy baby is all I wanted and I was happy to be told what I needed to do to make that happen.

Normally I love it when a plan comes together. I’m a list addict.


But I felt no need to write down any plan, instructions or guide as to how I wanted the birth of my first child to go.

I had a vague idea that it would be a bit grim – understatement of the century – but I didn’t see how insisting on a water birth, calming music and yoga poses would help me through that.

Keep calm and have a baby

That’s not to say I don’t see the value in things that will keep you calm during birth. Water births are apparently great for the pain, so if you want to request one, great.

Being at home surrounded by familiarity could also be a good thing for some women, but home births don’t appeal to me at all. I wanted the doctors and all their magic baby-saving tools right there if I needed them. My worry is how long it could take to transfer you to hospital if things do go wrong. Also you’ve filled a paddling pool and got water all over the carpet for nothing.

With my first I knew that I was so clueless about what was about to happen, staring into an abyss of potential pain and loss of dignity, that I didn’t want to try to exert any control over it.

My thinking was that births can go pretty well – all things considered – a bit wrong or very wrong. Having a list of demands like “absolutely no epidural under any circumstances at all” would be unrealistic.

Vaginal seeding

When I gave birth to my second baby our very lovely midwife told me some shocking birth plan requests. One woman wanted a water birth with every member of her family in the tub with her, including her three young kids. I’m not sure who was braver in that scenario, the pregnant lady or the kids.

Another wanted the midwife to perform vaginal seeding on her baby after birth. Not heard of it? It’s started doing the rounds among C-section babies. After baby is born the mum puts a bit of gauze in her vagina to soak up whatever is left in there. This is then dabbed on the baby’s face, eyes, nose, and around the mouth.

The theory is the stuff in the birthing channel contains micro-organisms that help baby fight disease in their vulnerable first weeks. British doctors have actually spoken out against the practice as it has become more common in the U.K., raising concerns it actually does more harm than good.

Now I’m not one to judge. It takes all sorts to make a world, but I don’t think the midwife should have to get her hands any more dirty than she already has. Do what you want with your own baby though, if vaginal seeding is your thing.

No plan is no good

During my labour one midwife was totally happy with me not having a birth plan. We discussed a few key points and I gave answers to guide her on certain practical aspects of the birth and immediate aftermath, such as breastfeeding. But when she went on a break another was appalled that I hadn’t issued my demands in a printed, laminated document.

She went on to quiz me on various options and looked sceptical as to whether I understood the gravity of my situation.

So after that I gave in and did write a vague plan for my second birth, as I didn’t want another telling off while I was mid-contraction.

Here are the key points I focused on:

Pain relief. Gas and air are an absolute yes, otherwise I will see how I go.

Injection to speed up placenta delivery. I said yes to this, because who wants to drag out the process. Cutting corners is a good thing in this case.

Cutting the cord. Hubby was adamant he didn’t want to do it and so I wrote this one down, though surely it’s just as easy to say a verbal “no” when asked.

Vitamin K for baby, oral or injection. This helps with blood clotting, so I said absolutely and asked for the injection, as oral can be a bit more fiddly.

I filled this stuff in on a sheet of paper inside my pregnancy medical notes. I don’t think the midwife even looked as it as she just asked me the questions relating to all the above areas verbally.

We had a nice chat and it broke the ice after I had just arrived on the ward.

So I would say it’s nice to write your views down on certain aspects of the birth, like pain relief if you’re very against diamorphine for example.

Get through the birth in whatever way you can, try whatever methods you can think of to help you get through it.

Just don’t get your expectations too high. Your baby may show you their rebellious side early on and not conform to the master plan.

Did you have a birth plan? Did you stick to it or did you have to accept changes as your labour progressed?



Lucy At Home

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  • AT LAST!!! Some sense!! I never had a birth plan – why plan for the one thing in life that no one actually has full control over? No midwife ever looked to see if I’d filled in my birth plan or asked if I had one, I must’ve been radiating a ‘don’t go there’ vibe!! Total lol at the kids in the birthing pool and ‘what the actual?’to the vaginal seeding, even the name is making me feel queasy!! Loved this refreshing and witty post x #BlogCrush

  • This is a great post. I didn’t have a birth plan. But my midwife pre-birth never asked me about one, so it didn’t really enter my head as a though. Now, after I had the boys I did wish I had been asked about it and made a few points, simply because there was a couple of things that could have been done different, and better for me. Such as me to be the first to feed my twins, and not one of the medical team as I looked on with jealousy from the operating table! Boo.
    But other than that, and a couple of other things, I agree. Let’s just get our babies out safe and well without too much concern about other stuff! #blogcrush

    • That must have been tough not getting the first feed, would’ve upset me too. I think there’s definitely a balance to be struck with it so your views are taken into account at least. Thanks for reading xx

  • I never wrote a birth plan, and it wasn’t a big deal. But there were things I made clear on the day. With my first born I just felt like it was too restricted, so with my second I just took more control on the day and made it clear I didn’t want clothes on, I didn’t want bright lights and I wanted it peaceful, it was a beautiful birthing experience. With my third I wanted a hypno birth, but had to have a C-section as I developed a heart condition that affected my heart rate and the baby was also breech. They were worried we both may not actually survive the birth, so the doctor prepared for the worst with emergency on staff as well as the top paediatrician. I think the practice from the hypo birthing actually helped keep me calmer than i would have been otherwise. My son was born at 35 weeks and we both survived. Things don’t always go to plan. It is nice to have an idea of certain things we wish for, but I didn’t want to be devastated if things didn’t go according to plan. Great post! #blogcrush

    • All very different experiences by the sound of it. I would like to try hypno birthing if I had a third. Sounds like you had a scary experience there with your third though, glad it all worked out for you. I think you’re right, put in your requests but don’t be too rigid. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts xx

    • They certainly know their own minds! Sorry you couldn’t have the birth you wanted, I think I would like the birthing pool if I did it all again but both times I couldn’t be bothered to try it out! Thanks for reading. X

  • It is funny that we’re more or less forced to make a birth plan. I think it gives unrealistic expectations – I wrote a birth plan for my first baby and thought that the midwives would follow it to the letter. They didn’t. That just got me really worked up because I thought I had picked out the birth I wanted, and yet they were doing something else. Second time around, my birth plan was much more vague and purely to say that I had one! It’s a weird thing to do when the midwives know so much more about this stuff than we do #blogcrush

  • I filled in the section of my notes with my “aims” but I had to be flexible. I did hypnobirthing and wanted as active a birth as possible, but my baby had meconium in the waters so I ended up being monitored – but I think it helped as they let me stand and attached me to a portable thing, which was so much better than being on a bed.Although they did put me on the bed at the end cos they said I was tired. I WAS! I’d love a water birth next time but I’m not getting my hopes up. All being well I can go to the midwife unit which is in the hospital anyway so if any problems again I can be there. I’m toying with home birth after some friends had lovely second home births, but I think I’m too anxious just in case anything went wrong. #BlogCrush