Planning for childbirth

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Important considerations a pregnant mother should make when planning for childbirth. Trusted Answers provided by Canadian Paediatric Hospitals

Key points

  • A birth plan is a written plan that combines your wishes for childbirth with what your health-care provider thinks is practical.
  • If your pregnancy is high-risk you should give birth in a hospital where appropriate facilities are readily available.
  • Women with low-risk pregnancies may want to consider the possibility of giving birth at home.

There are many things to consider when you are planning for the birth of your baby. Your first major decision will be to choose your health-care provider. These days, women in the developed world have many choices in terms of who will take care of them through their pregnancy, childbirth, and the first few weeks after birth. When you choose your health-care provider, you need to consider whether your pregnancy is low- or high-risk, how much of a role you want to play in decision-making, and your thoughts about "natural" deliveries and pain medication.

You may wish to work out a birth plan with your health-care provider some time before delivery. This is a written plan that combines your wishes for childbirth with what your health-care provider thinks is practical. It can help to minimize conflict between you and your health-care provider regarding your options for childbirth. When writing your birth plan, keep in mind the following considerations:

  • Are you high-risk or low-risk?
  • If you are low-risk, should you give birth at home or in a hospital?
  • Do you want to experience natural childbirth or are you keen on receiving medication for pain relief?
  • Is your partner going to help you through childbirth, or would you prefer someone else like a friend or your mother?
  • Are you aware of the signs of premature labour, false labour, and real labour?
  • What are your thoughts on labour induction, fetal monitoring, and episiotomy?
  • If you gave birth previously by caesarean section, do you want to do so again, or do you want to attempt a vaginal birth after caesarean section?
  • Have you considered banking your baby’s umbilical cord blood after the birth?

If you are low-risk, you may want to consider your options in terms of choosing home birth versus birth at a hospital. Home birth is a reasonable and safe option for low-risk women who want to experience a natural way of bringing their babies into the world. High-risk women should have their labour and delivery in a hospital where appropriate facilities such as caesarean section are readily available if they are needed.

The more prepared and informed you are about childbirth, the more confident you will feel. Informed women who are confident about their ability to go through childbirth tend to experience less pain and have a better overall experience. Childbirth is a natural experience with a high chance of a successful outcome. Even if labour and delivery do not proceed exactly as planned, have confidence in yourself and your health-care provider to do what’s best for you and your baby.

Last updated: September 11th 2009