Writing your birth preferences is a topic that has some mixed views, I have heard moms say that “it is a great idea and really helped me prepare for birth” and others have said “what is the point they wont listen to you anyways”. Whatever your current thoughts are on writing a birth preference I hope that this blog post will help to give you a positive perspective on the importance of writing your birth preferences, not just for you but for the greater good of maternity care in Ireland.
Briefly explained, a birth preference is a document of your wishes during labour and directly after birth. Labour is an unpredictable event and it’s important to keep this in mind, be flexible and adaptable on the day.
Birth preferences play a few different, but equally important roles when it comes to your maternity care;
ROLE 1: A birth preference acts as a communication tool between mom and her care givers. It clearly states what mom’s wishes are and hopefully during your prenatal appointments you can begin to have discussions on what you would like to happen on the day and what are the hospital policies around your choices. It’s important to always look for evidence based care, sadly hospital policies are not always best practice.
Equally when you arrive into hospital (or your home birth midwife arrives) the birth preferences can be handed to your midwife and they will get a better understanding of you and what you hope to achieve during labour and directly after it and also how they can assist you.
ROLE 2: Discussing your birth options with your chosen birth partner helps them to prepare for labour and they will have a better understanding of how to help you when labour begins. It will increase their confidence and they can feel more prepared leading up to the day.
It’s really important to discuss and keep communicating what you want to happen during labour with your birth partner, this also gives them an opportunity to ask questions or even make suggestions.
On the day, mom’s job is to focus and listen to her body and the sensations, the birth partners job is to aid mom in finding comfortable positions, help her to regain focus and importantly to be her voice, an advocate for her and her choices that she has documented on the birth preferences.
ROLE 3: When mom starts to think about her labour and the different aspects of it she can begin to ask questions and inform herself better. This process can also increases moms confidence and believe in herself, as she empowers herself through informed decision making and backing her choices by research on evidence based care and best practice guidelines.
Mom can also begin to use the powerful tool of visualisation. She can visualise what she will have in her toolkit to help on the day, how she is going to find comfort and what can be done to ease sensations. Visualisation is a great tool to use and knowing your birth preferences really helps to clarify your focus.
ROLE 4: Finally, change in our maternity care will only happen from the ground up, the more mom’s that start to advocate for how they want to labour the more that change will come about.
Care providers can only assist you and do better when you communicate what you want. For example, If you don’t communicate your wishes, and your midwife advises you to labour on your back because it’s hospital policy but silently inside you know you want to squat and feel most comfortable in that position, who is at fault? you for not advocating your decision and choices or the midwife for going with hospital policies?.
If your due your baby soon, have a serious think about the importance of writing your own birth preferences and make a decision that feels right for you. The choice is yours, but for me personally it’s an important step in preparing yourself and those around you for labour. It’s more than just a document to file away in your maternity folder.
If you are unsure about labour and your choices educate yourself and be informed. GentleBirth workshops can help you get into the mindset of thinking about labour, Our workshops are supported by evidence based research and international best practice. We cover topics such as, mindfulness, hypnosis, CBT, sports psychology including visualisation, comfort measures that can be used – this usually helps the birth partner as it is hands on and increase their confidence and we also look at negotiating your birth options.
I run group and private workshops in Killarney, Co. Kerry and Ballydesmond, Co. Cork. if you wish to view my profile click here.
If you are not in my area, fear not, GentleBirth workshops are held around the country, for more information check out GentleBirth Workshops .