Many pregnant mums want to write birth preferences in order to consolidate in their mind what they want for their labour and birth, and many midwives will encourage you to do so.

It can be a really useful tool to help you research options for birth and decide what sounds good for you with regard to, for example, pain relief options, interventions, and delayed cord clamping.

But it is important to remember that it is not a shopping list. You can’t plan labour or birth and being open-minded about what might happen is the key to having a positive birth experience.

For many women, including myself, a traumatic birth can come as a direct result of reality not matching the “fantasy” and being fixated on having a certain sequence of events in your birth preferences that is what the “perfect” birth looks like, and not achieving it.

So is there any point in having birth preferences? Yes there is! It is helpful to be informed about what might happen during labour and after birth, and is helpful to highlight to yourself, your birth partner and your care providers what is really important to you.

The Birthzang Approach to Birth Preferences

  1. You can’t plan your birth. This is a summary of your birth preferences of the things you’d like to achieve or avoid, for eg. delayed cord clamping.
  2. Keep it simple. No more than one page of A4.
  3. Use bullets points , short sentences, and make it quick and easy to scan.
  4. Discuss it with your birth partner. Make sure you are on the same page (yes, pun intended!).
  5. Be prepared to throw it out the window and go with the flow.

I have included a template below for you to use as a starting point. Feel free to copy and paste it and use it to write your own birth preferences but remember the golden rule:

You Can’t Plan Your Birth

***Birth Preferences Template***

BIRTH PREFERENCES – YOUR NAME

Summary

Short summary sentence, e.g., My preferences outline my desire to experience an active labour and birth, remaining in an upright position. Of course, the main priority is delivering a healthy and happy baby and we will consider any action necessary to safeguard the baby’s health.

Bullet points of key preferences

  • Include any relevant medical info, eg, Blood type
  • Which pain relief you’d like to be offered or not
  • Birth pool?
  • Delayed cord clamping
  • Natural 3rd stage

Birth Companion/s

Name and relationship to you

Birth Preparation

Describe any classes or philosophy, eg. Active Birth, yoga, Hypnobirthing

Pain relief

Your preferences about pain relief options, eg,

  • I may wish to use Gas & air
  • I do not wish to be offered Pethedine, or an epidural

Labour & Birth

Summary of preferences for labour & birth

  • Minimal internal examinations
  • Birth position/not reclined
  • Birth pool
  • Episiotomy
  • Partner receive baby & tell me gender

 Care of Baby

  • Delayed cord clamping until cord stops pulsing ** this is important to highlight as many care providers will not do this unless requested **
  • Baby close by if needs resuscitation
  • Vitamin K – injection or oral
  • TB injection
  • Immediate skin-to-skin
  • Breastfeeding

 Labour – 3rd Stage

  • Natural 3rd stage
  • No Injection to deliver placenta ***again this needs to be highlighted and a good idea to tell your midwife as well. The injection is routinely given without explicit consent***

Special Circumstances

If any special circumstances arise where you consider medical intervention necessary, please advise us of all options, including what should happen if we wait a little while longer, or do nothing (BRAIN).