Birth plans

It is a good idea to make a birth plan with your preferences in terms of labour positions, any pain relief you are happy to have and what you would like to happen after the baby is born. You can find examples on the internet/NHS website to give you an idea of what information is needed. Pack it into your hospital bag and make sure your midwife is aware of it when you arrive-it can be kept with your maternity notes that you hand to her on arrival.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you about labour and giving birth, after having 3 children of my own, is to expect the unexpected and be prepared for your birth plan to change at short notice.

None of us know how we are going to react to the circumstances and pain that is involved with labour and giving birth. We all know what we would like to happen, and how we hope that we can labour quickly and easily, without any pain relief at all, and give birth to a healthy baby at the end of it all without batting an eyelid! However, we all have different pain thresholds, and none of us know how our bodies will cope with labour-particularly first time round. In terms of pain relief it is best to just see what happens and go with the flow a bit. You will know if and when you get to the point of needing some form of pain relief-either to just take the edge off the pains, or take it away all together.

I made a birth plan with my first baby stating that I would be happy to use the tens machine at the start and then gas and air if the pain became too much-I also specified that I would prefer not to have Pethidine or an Epidural at all……I ended up having 2 doses of Pethidine, an Epidural and an emergency c-section after 14 hours in active labour-6 of those stuck at 9 and a half cm dilated with contractions every 2 minutes! Needless to say, I didn’t even bother making a birth plan for my next 2 children! Your instincts over what you want and need at the time will take over and get you through it all.

You haven’t failed if you don’t stick to your original birth plan-you have simply adapted to the circumstances surrounding you at the time. There are no prizes for going through all that pain with no help-the important thing is that you and the baby come out of it healthy and relatively unscathed at the end.

Top tip: Labour can be very intense and obviously painful. I was so shocked as I looked down at my first born a couple of hours after he was born and thought, “that was so awful that I am NEVER doing that again,” and at the time I was sure that I meant it without any doubt! I felt so sad looking at my baby boy thinking that he would have to now be an only child, as I wasn’t prepared to go through that type of experience again, when previous to my labour I had always said I wanted at least 2 children. It is amazing how quickly the mind forgets though, as just 1 month later I was saying, “well, when we have the next one…” much to my husbands surprise, who thought we were stopping at 1!

I have found the scenario I just described is normal for EVERY new mum I have talked to. We all go through a few days or weeks after the birth resolutely stating that we will not have any more children-but most mums tend to change their minds. Nobody warned me of these feelings and they terrified me as I felt so strongly about it at that moment in time, and determined that I would never have another child. I also felt very sad at the same time. Because of this, I always try to warn friends and clients that this will be a perfectly normal feeling to have straight after your baby is born, and that for most of us, it won’t last! As painful as labour and birth is, our babies and children bring such love and joy to our lives from the day they are born, that any amount of pain is worthwhile!

C-sections, Ventouse, Forceps delivery

This is not something you can really plan ahead for too much, as we all pray for a straightforward labour or birth. If you have had problems in pregnancy and are already booked in for a Caesarean section, then you should have already been given all of the information and facts about how and when it will happen. It is a good idea to ensure you have a family member or friend who can step up and help out with childcare if you already have other children, in the event that you have to stay in hospital longer than planned.  Always pack your hospital bag to cater for at least one overnight stay, and make sure that your partner or someone else knows where to find any extra items that may need to be brought to hospital for you or the baby if needed. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at your antenatal appointments about things you may be concerned about.

Breast or bottle feeding

If you plan on breastfeeding then you won’t need to take anything into hospital in terms of feeding equipment. As mentioned in the hospital bag items list, just ensure that you pack a couple of nursing bras, and some night-shirts that open at the front easily.

If your choice is to bottle feed your baby, then you will most likely need to take bottles and some cartons to the hospital with you, as most Maternity wards do not provide them any more. It is something worth checking with your Midwife about. The ward will have a room (usually called the ‘milk kitchen’), where you will be able to sterilise and make up your babies’ bottles until you are discharged.

Written by Lisa Clegg, author of the recently published book ‘The Blissful Baby Expert‘.