Childbirth is a personal experience, which is why you may want to draw up a birth plan — but what is a birth plan, exactly?

Childbirth is a very special and personal experience and everyone has different expectations of how it will be. For example, some women may want to do without pain relief during childbirth; others may want to blast their favourite music playlist in the delivery suite. Everyone has different ways to welcome their babies into the world.

At week 31, it's a good idea to draw up a birth plan. However, a birth plan is not a contract, nor is it compulsory. It's a way to communicate your wishes to those who will be directly or indirectly taking care of your childbirth, such as your doctor and the midwife. Take some time to think about what's important to you and once you've come up with a birth plan, go through it with your doctor, just in case there are any safety or health issues to consider. Don't worry; your doctor can also help guide you along.

Here's a checklist of items to think about:

Before labour

  1. Would you like to hire a doula? A doula is someone who's trained as a labour companion, though not to replace your doctor or midwife. She can provide an additional source of support during your childbirth, and can also give you advice on relaxation techniques, breathing exercises and labour positions. Even after delivery, she may assist you in your postnatal care and breastfeeding.

During labour

  1. Do you prefer to move about or lie down during labour?

  2. Do you prefer to have pain relief or to go without?

  3. Do you have any preferences for which pain medications to have?

  4. Do you have any preferences for a certain position to give birth, such as semi-sitting, standing, kneeling or lying down?

  5. If you need a Cesarean section, do you have any special requests?

  6. Do you prefer to wear your own clothes?

  7. Do you prefer to have some drinks and snacks during labour?

  8. Do you prefer to listen to music? If so, what music?

  9. Who do you prefer to be present at the childbirth?

After delivery

  1. Would you like your spouse to cut the umbilical cord?

  2. Would you like to claim the placenta after childbirth?

  3. Would you like to store the cord blood?

  4. Would you like to hold onto the baby immediately after childbirth?

  5. Would you like to breastfeed immediately after childbirth?

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By Associate Professor TAN Thiam Chye Head & Senior Consultant, Dr TAN Shu Qi Senior O&G Resident, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, KK Women's and Children's Hospital

Sources: The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth 2008, World Scientific

Healthy Start for your Pregnancy 2012, Health Promotion Board Singapore

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