Creating a birth plan helps a mum-to-be make decisions about where to give birth, the type of delivery, whether a birthing pool is wanted, pain relief and what happens just after the baby is born.
Planning ahead for labour and delivery allows everyone to focus on bringing the new baby into the world on the big day.
A birth plan isn't essential, but it is something a midwife can help with.
Where to give birth
Although midwives encourage choice when planning for uncomplicated births, not every birthing alternative is right for every woman. For some a hospital is the best and safest place to give birth.
There are an increasing number of options, including NHS and birthing centres, some as separate units or within community hospitals, and others attached to bigger hospital maternity suites. Another popular option is the choice of a home birth.
The midwife will help make informed decisions, after weighing-up the benefits and risks of the various choices.
Around one in 50 women in England and Wales give birth at home.
Many women pick home births for reasons, including:
- Being in familiar surroundings, which may be more relaxing
- Not having to interrupt labour to get to hospital
- Avoids childcare issues for existing youngsters
- Avoids separation from a partner after the baby is born
- Less likely to have forceps or ventouse delivery
A midwife who has been involved in the pregnancy already will be present for the birth and to help with a transfer to hospital if labour is not progressing as planned.
There are some downsides to home births to consider:
- Transferring to hospital is quite common, happening in around 45 out of 100 planned home births for a first baby. The numbers are lower at 12 in a 100 women for second and subsequent babies. Distance to the hospital is a factor to consider.
- There is a slightly increased risk of something going wrong with a first home birth compared to a hospital birth. However, for second and subsequent births a home birth is as safe as a hospital or midwife-led centre delivery.
- When it comes to pain relief, epidurals cannot be given at home.
- Home birth may not be recommended for breach births or for women expecting twins or multiples.