Setting out your birth preferences is an important step in preparing yourself and discovering what’s important to you when it comes to meeting your newest family member. You might feel like you don’t even know what you don’t know about giving birth - even if it’s not your first time.

It makes sense to talk about birth preferences rather than a birth plan. If you are someone who likes to plan in detail, one plan will not cover everything when it comes to birth - you’ll need a plan A, plan B and perhaps plan C too. If you plan for a caesarean, what is your preference if you go into labour before the date? If you plan to labour, what is your pain relief preference if you are offered a hormone drip for slow progress? 

You might be someone who likes to go with the flow, in which case your birth preference will be to follow recommendations from the care providers with you at the time. If that is you, it is still recommended to understand some of the decisions you will be faced with during birth, because once things are underway, it is much harder to consider new information.

Taking time to read, think and explore your options puts you in control of decisions, and evidence shows us that control means better birth experiences. This is true regardless of whether birth goes according to plan A. 

Where you plan to birth affects the type of birth, you’re more likely to experience. The pain relief on offer depends on the setting. To help you decide, have a read about where to birth, and check out our helpful birth choices page.

Of course, as well as choosing the setting, there is the question of who to involve. Having a birth partner who is well prepared to support you can have a direct impact on your ability to relax and birth. Due to the pandemic, you will be asked to have one birth partner and they will need to be free of Covid symptoms at the time of birth. You may wish to consider who would be with you if your birth partner is unwell.  Look at our Covid and Pregnancy page for more information.

Once these big decisions are made, there are lots of smaller decisions for you to make. Antenatal education can be really helpful to inform your birth preferences. Click here for the free Solihul online antenatal course. 

NHS.uk provides a birth planning guide and template with lots of items to consider. You can bring any questions to your midwife appointments as you develop your birth preferences.