It’s a good idea to start looking into your birth preferences early on in your pregnancy to help you decide how you would like your labour and birth to be managed. One of the things you will need to think about is how you want to give birth. Here, we look at your birth choices and give you ideas to consider.
How you give birth may depend on where you give birth.
Although many hospitals and maternity units offer facilities for different types of birth these days, not all of them offer all the options.
Having an active birth means that you will be free to move and walk around during labour and can give birth in the position that you find most comfortable – like squatting or kneeling.
You may also be able to use birthing aids, such as a birthing chair or bean bag.
This means that you will give birth as naturally as possible without drugs or any medical intervention – unless it becomes necessary for your safety or the safety of your baby.
You can use relaxation and breathing techniques to help you cope with contractions and you may also be able to use alternative therapies, such as aromatherapy and acupuncture.
If you want a water birth, you will need to talk to your hospital to see if this is an option they would recommend. Birthpools are usually available in maternity units and you will need to let the maternity unit know you want to use the pool when you call to tell them you are in labour.
Alternatively, if you are having a home birth you can hire one to use at home. If a water birth isn’t possible, you can use a birthpool or a bath filled with warm water to relax you during the first stage of labour and then get out to give birth.
This is when your labour and birth is controlled by medical methods, such as having an epidural for pain relief. You can choose this type of birth, or you may have no option if your baby is in trouble and an assisted delivery is needed. Another example of a high-tech birth is a Caesarean, which may be needed for medical reasons or carried out as an emergency.
It’s a good idea to discuss your ideal birth preferences with your birth partner and your doctor so that they know how you’d like your labour and birth to be managed.
However, do remember that it’s important to keep an open mind, as you may find you have to make changes as your pregnancy progresses – or if complications arise when you are in labour.
You may also want to include other issues that need to be considered before you go into labour. You'll find space for your birth preferences in your maternity record.