Why you shouldn’t take your birth plan too seriously

The term ‘birth plan’ is a little misleading to say the least. It tricks you into thinking that you’re actually the one in control, and can ‘plan’ your labour as meticulously as you would ‘plan’ your wedding day. You only have to watch an episode of One born every minute to realise that most of the time, this isn’t the case. The truth is, when it comes to giving birth, you really have very little control – your maternal body has ideas of her own and you’re just there for the show – no matter what you wrote in your birth plan.


birth planAs you approach your due date your health professionals will start to tell you that you have choices. Choices about where to have your baby (homebirth or hospital), pain relief (TENS machines, gas and air, pethidine, epidurals), preferred positions for labour (ironically they look similar to the positions that got you pregnant in the first place…) how you plan to feed your baby, whether you’d be happy for intervention to speed things up if necessary – the list goes on. These are all points that you need to consider for your birth plan, but it’s best to view them as a loose set of preference rather than as a rigid ‘plan’.

Throughout my pregnancy, I came to accept that everybody with child likes to give you advice – some of it useful, some of it obvious and some of it just plain annoying. For the most part I took it with a pinch of salt, but the best advice I was given was to not get too hung up on a birth plan. I’m usually a big fan of planning so it felt a little alien to me not to turn to Google for the lowdown on every birthing experience ever documented, but equally I wasn’t too keen on the idea of being disappointed in the delivery suite if the ‘plan’ decided to desert me in my hour(s) of need. With all of the other anxieties I was feeling about going into labour, the last thing I wanted to feel (apart from the pain of a baby pushing through my cervix) was frustration that it was ‘not going as I planned it!’. So I decided I was happy to go with the flow, with my only stipulation being that if I was in pain, then please – give me whatever I ask for.how to write a birth plan

And as it turned out, a birth plan would’ve been a complete waste of time for me. I arrived at the hospital at 10pm  with not-so-frequent but strong contractions. The midwife examined me and told me that I was 4cm dilated before explaining that as this was my first she would expect me to dilate another cm with every hour – so I anticipated that I’d be giving birth around 6am. The midwife left saying that she would examine me every couple of hours. Fast forward a couple of hours and I’m thinking that perhaps I would quite like that epidural we spoke about . In fact I really want it – right now. A few dramatic moans later and in comes the midwife to examine me – I’m now 10cm dilated and there’s no way I’m having an epidural – my baby is about to be born.

I realise that I was one of the lucky ones. On the flip side I have less fortunate friends who were adamant they didn’t want pain relief (“it says it in my birth plan”) only to endure hours of labour before finally deciding that they’d had enough and needed a little help. Other labours aren’t so straightforward and may require medical intervention.

In the end, the best approach you can have is to keep an open mind and have faith that your body will do what it needs to – after all, it’s been building up to this moment for years. If unexpected situations do arise, be confident in the knowledge that your midwife will be acting in the best interests for you and your baby. Either way, ditch the plan.

what you need to know about your birth plan




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21 Comment

  1. Reply
    October 4, 2015 at 11:32 am

    I so agree with you, Natalie! I was one of those women feeling strong about having an unmedicated birth…but my baby was in brow position, I had endured 18 hours of labour all together…oh, and did I mention that I was having twins??? It was really silly of my of trying to plan everything. In the end, I felt like a failure and it took me months to accept that nothing went as planned.
    I hope new moms take your advice!!!
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  2. Reply
    Claire at Life Love and Dirty Dishes
    October 5, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Very true and sound advice. I would also say that no two births are the same. With my first the gas and air made me sick and I hated it. With my second there was no way in the this world anyone was going to get the gas and air off me, I loved it! #maternitymonday
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    1. Reply
      Mum in Brum
      October 5, 2015 at 10:47 pm

      Haha! Yep the gas and air also made me feel sick, but I kept with it because I wasn’t sure what I would feel if I stopped!!! I’m thinking I might try without it if I had another but I think that may go out of the window – I did quite like feeling tipsy for part of it! x

  3. Reply
    Jessica Powell
    October 5, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Definitely agree with this – I wanted a water birth, but ended up having a section under general anesthetic. When it comes down to it, it’s the baby who’s in charge! 🙂

    1. Reply
      Mum in Brum
      October 5, 2015 at 10:45 pm

      Definitely! I also fancied a water birth but was told that there might not be enough pools, so I didn’t really want to get it in my head that I was having one if I couldn’t in the end. As you say, baby is in charge. A good first lesson for the rest of their lives I guess! 😉

  4. Reply
    October 5, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    I’m keeping a very open mind with my birth plan for January. What happens, happens as long as baby and I are OK at the end of it then I’m going to call that a success. #maternitymondays
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    1. Reply
      Mum in Brum
      October 5, 2015 at 10:43 pm

      At the end of the day that is the only think that matters. I’ve never really got the point of birth plans – it’s only everything they ask you during labour anyway. Thanks for stopping by x

  5. Reply
    October 5, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    I didn’t even write one second time around. I actually think they’re a complete waste of time and something else for mums to feel bad about if births don’t go to plan #MaternityMondays
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    1. Reply
      Mum in Brum
      October 5, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      Exactly – as if there isn’t enough to think about already!

  6. Reply
    October 7, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    I skipped the birth plan, because of exactly what you wrote. We aren’t the ones in charge anyway, so I didn’t see a point. With my first, I did not want the epidural, but had one. I needed oxygen, she came out breech, they needed to use the vacuum to get her out, and we were very close to needing an emergency c-section. Oh, and my husband was deployed, too. None of that would have been in a pretty little birth plan. 😉
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    1. Reply
      Mum in Brum
      October 13, 2015 at 9:20 am

      Oooh sounds like you had a pretty horrible time of it! I’m all for opting for the pain relief if you need it. I understand why people think they don’t want it and if things are uncomplicated and the pain feels manageable then that’s fine, but I certainly wouldn’t feel bad about it – it’s definitely not a sign of weakness of ‘giving in’. The most important thing is that baby is delivered healthy and mum should have whatever she needs to make that as pain/anxiety free as possible. x

  7. Reply
    A Moment with Franca
    October 10, 2015 at 10:53 am

    You are right Natalie! The birth plan is just a guide for you. It is very rare that it actually goes as planned. Unless you have a programmed c-section. With my first daughter, I always knew that I wanted pain relief. I’m not that strong person really. I was in labour for 24 hrs and nothing happened but thanks God I got the epidural. I ended up having an emergency c-section. I hated the whole experience and the c-section was done in minutes!! For my second daughter they asked me about my preferences and I said straight away that I wanted a c-section. I’m not going to lie. I wanted something quick. So that is what I did and the whole experience was fantastic. I even got to be back at home the next day. I know it takes more time to recuperate but at least I was at home and not at the hospital!! Great post! Thank you so much for linking up with me at #KCACOLS. I would love if you join me again tomorrow. :- ) x
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  8. Reply
    October 10, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Speaking from a Dad’s perspective it was great knowing and understanding all the different options, etc which is especially useful when you need to try to make calm decisions with your partner in the heat of the moment, but you definitely shouldn’t assume it will go exactly how you planned it, as it more than likely won’t! Thanks for sharing. #KCACOLS

  9. Reply
    Nikki Frank-Hamilton
    October 12, 2015 at 1:46 am

    Natalie, this is awesome advice. Both my labors were events that pushed all prior planning to the wayside. My son was coming back-labor and got stuck and my daughter ended up turning breech and a C-section took place. Back then we really didn’t plan as much as mother’s do now. I had planned on no pain medication and I was really happy that I could change my mind! I was in labor with my son for 36+ hours! I think making a plan would ease some of your anxiety, but realizing that you are only in control if you can change your mind is key. Leave yourself some room to wiggle and enjoy it, each child is only born once! Thank God! LOL
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    1. Reply
      Mum in Brum
      October 12, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Wow it sounds like you had a bit of an ordeal both times around! I cannot imagine being in labour for 36+ hours – I was very lucky with Taylor with her being so quick. You’re exactly right – making a plan can help make you feel less anxious but we shouldn’t panic if things end up changing during labour. I think an open mind is the best thing! x

  10. Reply
    Kyles @ Pickles and Pords
    November 5, 2015 at 11:16 am

    I completely agree with this! My doctor asked me at my 36 week appointment if I had a birth plan and I said, “Yes, the plan is for you to get the baby out safely. Do whatever you need to do.” #coolmumclub
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  11. Reply
    November 5, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Great post, thank you! A midwife told me, quite sternly, that she really disliked the term ‘birth plan’ and said I should think of it only as ‘birth wishes’. I was like “meh, same thing” but I’ve changed my mind – a plan makes people feel like they have to adhere to this whereas wishes are nice but you can roll with any changes. #coolmumclub
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  12. Reply
    November 5, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    I’m so with you on this Natalie, although my ‘plan’ was to ask for the drugs menu on setting foot in the hospital ;-). Baby number two went so far from any plan it was a total wake up call. Baby number three, well I momentarily fancied the idea of a natural water birth…until I was offered an epidural whilst the anesthetist was free. Turns out my willpower for epidurals is worse than for a jaegerbomb. Thanks for linking up another spot on post to #coolmumclub x MMT
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    1. Reply
      Mum in Brum
      November 7, 2015 at 2:08 pm

      Haha I’m loving the comparison – I was all for an epidural to be honest but then got lucky (sort of!) when it all happened so fast! x

  13. Reply
    November 5, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    I had a birth plan which started with the words “No pain relief.” I think they were in capital letters and bold text. I ended up being induced and had an epidural after 10 hours or so, then ended up with an emergency section. I never even got the birth plan out of my bag. And I still feel like a big fat failure. I know that’s ridiculous, but there it is. I wish we wouldn’t be forever being told we had “choices” to be honest, because let’s face it, no one actually seems to have a choice in anything related to birth as far as I can see!
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    1. Reply
      Mum in Brum
      November 7, 2015 at 2:02 pm

      Ah that sounds like a difficult labour!! You are not a failure at all – the only thing that matters at the end of it is a healthy baby and mum. I think you are so right though – we really don’t have many choices at all when it comes down to it, it’s all decided during the labour and we just have to go along with it x

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