Birth Plans what are they and should we have one?

I find the term birth plan misleading. It isn’t a plan of how you want your birth to go, writing one in that way can lead to disappointment, guilt and birth trauma. All births are different, choices made may change depending on how things progress, how your partner is feeling and circumstances beyond your control. I prefer to think of them as Birth Preferences. I find them a useful tool, especially for the birth partner.

Why should we have one?

Birth preferences, should be written by both of you. By simply writing one, it will encourage you to look at the options available and discuss them. You should look at all things, from different forms of induction, pain relief and preferences after the birth. Do you want to cut the cord? Skin to skin immediately or baby cleaned first? Natural methods of pain relief or epidural? You should research together the benefits and risks of all of these and understand what is involved.

By writing it together, you will gain an understanding of how you both feel about different choices. This is crucial for the birth partner, in their role as advocate which I wrote about here, as understanding these preferences allows them to be advocate from a position of knowledge. Only through fully understanding your preferences can you have complete faith in each other. As partner you will be ensuring those preferences are respected during labour. If you feel strongly about something take your time to think it through, discuss it and if you don’t agree come back to it.

Guys, if your preference isn’t that of your partners, at some point you must accept their preference. You must accept it and trust your partner, it is important she can have faith in you to protect her environment. This comes under your role as protector.

Once you have researched and are happy with your preferences, write them out clearly, concisely and in a logical order. You do not need to write the reason for preference, just write them out logically. I have seen seven page birth plans and I have seen single page ones.  If you can, keep your plan to a single side of A4. Make sure you have a few copies packed in the hospital bags. When you get to hospital, give one to your midwife and keep another to hand for you to reference if you need to.

What happens if she suddenly asks for something she said she didn’t want?

Great, you have done your research, written your birth preferences and now your partner is in labour. All you have to do is be her advocate, be her protector and get out of there alive, right? Wrong! You need an extra invaluable tool, this one is absolutely crucial for you to be able to have complete trust in each other, and for you to not have to do develop telepathic skills!

Firstly, all women are different during labour, some vocalise, some go into themselves and are almost silent, whilst others the change is minimal. A vocal or silent partner can be very unsettling for the birth partner, remember, it is not your job to try and second guess how she is feeling. It is your job to control your “fix it” reflex!

What you do both need, is a safe way for her to change her mind about preferences, and a way for you to be certain she really wants to change her mind. How many times have I heard this discussion:

Woman: “Why did you let me have that?” “You knew I didn’t want to!”

Partner: “You asked for it!”

Woman: “That’s not the point, we talked about it and you knew I didn’t want it!”

Partner: “How was I to know? I’m not telepathic, I thought I was doing the right thing!”

Things can change during labour and you need a way for you to confirm those changes in decisions, without repercussions afterwards.

So guys, listen up, here is your life saving instructions!


Yes, simple as it seems, it is invaluable tool. As part of your birth preference discussions, you need to work together to come up with a codeword that means something to you both. The use of this codeword will allow your partner to feel secure in knowledge that if she needs to she can change her mind, and for you, it means you can cover your arse!

Once you have got your codeword, this is how you will use it.

1)    If your partner asks for something that in your birth preferences you agreed you didn’t want, the first time ignore her.

2)    If she asks a second time, ask her if she is sure?

3)    If she asks a third time, simply ask her for the codeword, if she gives you the codeword, give or advocate for what she wants.

Why do you follow these steps? Again, it is very simple: By ignoring the first time you are checking that she isn’t just vocalising. Then by asking ‘if she is sure’ the second time she asks for it, you are giving her just a moment to think about it, to question herself. On the third occasion, again by asking for codeword, there is time for her to reconsider that decision.

NOTE: You do not need to go past these steps and keep questioning. If codeword is given YOU DO NOT need to ask her again if she is sure!

This very simple thing again increases the trust you have in each other, and further enhances the environment I have discussed before.

Communication in all things is so important, none more so than planning your birth preferences. Spending some time researching and writing your preferences together, will help you better understand the process and each other.  In all things parenting you are a team and that starts NOW!

If you want help with writing your birth preferences, please feel free to email me,


10 thoughts on “Birth Plans what are they and should we have one?

  1. Some good advice there. 9 weeks ago we had a birth plan with some very firm points and instructions. All bar 1 of those wishes went out the window the moment my wife’s waters broke, due to complications.

    However, having gone through the writing process together, it enabled us to discuss things we may not have thought of discussing otherwise. This can only be a good thing.

    Also, when things did go wrong during the birth, I knew what we both wanted, but I also had to help make decisions which went against what we had agreed and discussed. I think although having a birth plan is good thing you cannot be so rigid as to not be willing to make changes if the circumstances require it.

    • I think you hit nail on the head, the benefits of writing one together are great, but with the understanding they are preferences. This saves from disappointment or guilt afterwards if different things occur. Baby hasnt read your preferences.

      One thing that never ceases though to amaze me is people have those preferences but then dont do any preparation to help make them happen.

  2. Great article. I’d like to add my two cents 🙂 I’d also suggest couples think about and consider a doula. A doula can help shape a birth plan, and keep it together when the big moment arrives. They’re experienced and also help dad to keep his role as support person throughout the birth. I have a page on Facebook called DadsDigDoulas that offers more info on this topic as well. I like your article!

    • Hi Jeff

      My partner is actually a Doula, I agree they can be a great asset. So thanks for taking time comment and glad you liked the piece


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  4. I think your codeword is great, fantastic, wonderful!
    Having this codeword tool maximises your partners chance of having a normal birth (if she vocalises I want an epidural, as women often do).

  5. Great suggestions! I’ve also moved away from the term birth ‘plan’ as some caregivers feel a birth plan is about telling them how to do their job (so you can imagine the reaction). We talk about birth ‘preferences’ or birth ‘priorities’…and a term that really challenges the thought processes of those caregivers who don’t support birth plans is the term ‘expression of expectations’. As I mentioned to you yesterday – most Dads want to be informed, they want to help their partners have the best birth possible, they want to understand the tools to do that – they don’t want to feel like a tool!

    Just on the codeword – I find it can be helpful to let the Midwife know what the code word is. I learned the hard way a few years ago where the Midwife kept offering Mum pain relief. Mum was coping brilliantly and I was encouraging her every step of the way. Because we hadn’t shared the codeword with the Midwife she felt I was persuading the Mum against having the epi….which of course wasn’t true but I could see how that might have been her perception.


  6. Pregnant with my second child, I’ve actually been thinking and writing about Birth Plans/preferences a lot. Personally, I think their main value is way before labour even starts, as a guide to help you think about things you didn’t know you needed to know. I’m often surprised by how little people know about childbirth, and if nothing else, the birthplan allows them to consider their options and hopefully research what the different things are.

    Great post though – awesome for getting dads involved as I know a lot of dad’s who treat the birth the way they treat the wedding – they just have to show up.

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