Pregnant women and doctor

Birth plans explained

Why they can be useful and what to include in yours

Bringing a baby into the world is a life-changing experience and it can feel overwhelming. Labour and birth can include a bustle of activity and a mix of emotions (even if you’ve done it before), so it’s easy to understand why some birthing mothers may feel like they’re not in control. Ternity Group’s Nourish Baby Health Writer, Jane Barry explains why birth plans can be useful in helping to ensure your voice is heard.


What is a birth plan?

Birth plans are essentially a communication between you, your partner and your maternity care provider. It’s a written record of how you’d like to be supported in labour and when you’re having your baby.


Why are birth plans a good idea?

Birth plans can help you to take control over the way your baby is born. They also help maternity care providers and partners to understand what’s important to you when you’re in labour and birthing your baby.


What do you need to know before writing a birth plan?

It’s helpful to have some understanding of what’s involved in labour, birth and the early moments after your baby is born before you write your birth plan. If you can, enrol in an antenatal class to learn more about what you can expect and the options available to you. Chat to your maternity provider or friends and family who’ve had a baby. The more you know, the more equipped you’ll be to choose the path that’s right for you and to make sure that your preferences are included in your birth plan.


What do you need to include in a birth plan?

There’s no right or wrong way to write up your birth plan (so it’s not usually helpful to compare yours to someone else's). How much detail you go into is entirely your choice – some expectant parents prefer to have a very comprehensive plan covering every possibility, others just include what’s really important to them in bullet points. Your maternity care provider can usually give you a template to use as a prompt or there are examples online. Or you could develop your own birth plan which is unique to you. Either way your birth plan will need to include information which clearly sets out your wishes. 

A clear birth plan can include things like:

1. Where you’ll have your baby (remember every maternity hospital has their own policies and procedures so chat to your maternity care provider for more info about your particular hospital).

2. Who you’d like to be in the delivery room with you (partner, parent, friend, doula etc.) and the ways they can support you and advocate for you if needed.

3. If you’d like to bring any items from home to make you more comfortable in labour, like a yoga ball, essential oils or a speaker to play music.

4. How often you’d like to be checked on by a midwife or obstetrician when you’re in labour.

5. If you’d prefer your birth to be as ‘natural’ as possible or a list of medical interventions that you may prefer e.g. artificial rupture of membranes (breaking your waters), fetal monitoring, episiotomy (a cut made in the tissue between the vagina and anus) or to tear naturally, or the use of forceps or vacuum extraction (ventouse) if needed.

6. If you’d like to labour in water (the shower or bath). And if this is an option, if you’d like to have a water birth.

7. If you’d like to try different delivery positions like standing or squatting for labour and birth or your preferred position.

8. If you’d like pain relief medication and which type(s), or of you’d prefer to try to use pain relief techniques without medication.

9. If you’d like your partner to cut your baby’s umbilical cord.

10. If you’d like to have skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth if possible.

11. If you’d like delayed cord clamping, if you’re planning to bank your baby’s cord blood, and your preferences around what you’d like done with the placenta e.g. if you’d like to take it home.

12. If you’re planning to breastfeed or formula feed.

Remember to include what’s most important to you at the top of your birth plan and any culturally significant factors that your maternity care provider should be aware of.


Top tips for writing a birth plan

1. Focus on what’s important – when deciding on your priorities, keep in mind that the most important thing is that you and your baby are safe and well during your labour and after birth.

2. Write the plan together with your partner or support person and include ways they can support you in labour.

3. Consider your baby as well – they can’t have a voice so will rely on you and your maternity care provider to advocate for them.

4. Go to an antenatal class if possible, to help you understand the labour and birth process and the options available to you.

5. Speak with your maternity care provider – they can help to give you insights into what could be valuable to include and what may or may not be possible for you.

6. Speak with close friends and family who’ve had children and whose insights you respect (they may have some ideas you haven’t considered).

7. Expect to make some changes in your plan as you get closer to your baby’s due date (what might seem very important in the first and second trimesters may be less so closer to your baby’s arrival!).

8. Don’t view your birth plan as a guarantee of what will happen. Labour and birth can be unpredictable so allow for the unexpected (especially if this is to keep you and your precious bub safe and well).

Remember, birth plans are not a pass or fail process. They’re a useful guide to help your partner, support person or maternity care provider support you in a way that’s right for you and help to put you in control of your labour and birth.


For more information on how your Teachers Health Hospital and Extras cover can support you during pregnancy and birth (including benefits for antenatal classes), head over to the Pregnancy & Birth Guide.



Ternity Group supports Teachers Health members through the New Families Program.


Nourish Baby Health Writer Jane Barry has qualifications in general, paediatric, immunisation, midwifery and child health nursing. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Applied Science (Nursing) and has almost 35 years specialist experience in child health nursing.