Public Education Pamphlets
The SOGC provides the following public education pamphlets designed for patients, clinics and health-care facilities. This material has been reviewed and endorsed by the SOGC’s subject matter experts.
Birth PlanA birth plan is a document that tells your health-care provider and the hospital staff:
- What kind of childbirth you would like.
- How you would like your baby cared for after he is born.
How to write a birth planSimple and short is best. It should be less than one page long. Try to be realistic and be aware that your childbirth will include your health-care team, yourself, your partner, the baby, and your family. Your birth plan works best if you write down what you want and what you would prefer if things do not happen as you planned. For example, you may write, “I would prefer not to have an intravenous needle during labour. But if the staff think I need one for a clear medical reason, then I would agree to have one, but only if, and when, it is needed.”
When to write a birth planMost women write a birth plan after they talk over their childbirth plans with a health-care provider and once they know what their hospital offers in terms of routines and care. It’s also a good idea to discuss the plan with your partner and your family if they are going to be involved in some way. However, it is your body, and your family needs to understand that you are the only one who can make some of the more personal decisions (pain control, for example).Return to top
Common things included in a birth planWe have listed some of the common things women include in their birth plans. You do not have to include all of them in your own birth plan. If something is not as important to you, you can leave it out. If you think of something else that is not on this list, feel free to include it.
The labour coachStudies show that when a woman in labour has the continuous support of someone who cares for her (a labour coach), she will have a more positive experience. The hospital will provide you with a professional labour coach (an obstetrical nurse) who will help you during labour and delivery, and after the baby is born.
EnemaToday’s health-care providers do not usually give enemas to women in labour. An enema is a liquid put into the rectum to clear out the bowel. However, some women find that having an enema gets rid of pressure in the lower bowel. This is most helpful if they were constipated before labour.
ShavingMost hospitals no longer shave a woman’s pubic area.
Intravenous line (IV)Unless your pregnancy is high-risk or there is a medical reason, most hospitals will not insert an intravenous line (IV). An IV provides direct and immediate access to your blood stream quickly, in case an emergency happens. Sometimes, an IV is the best way to give you certain medicines—such as antibiotics, or drugs to start labour. Some women benefit from the extra fluids they can get through an IV. It can help prevent dehydration during labour. If you want an epidural you will need to have an IV. Talk to your health-care provider for more information or to decide whether you will use an IV.
Blood testsIf your pregnancy is thought to be low-risk and normal, routine blood tests are not usually done when you first arrive in the labour room. Sometimes, certain blood tests are needed (such as blood sugar tests if you are diabetic) to make sure all is going well.Return to top
Inducing labourIf your labour has not started by the end of your 41st week, or if you have other medical problems, your health-care provider may suggest that labour be induced (started using medical means). Labour should not be induced without good reason.
Augmenting labourIf your labour is moving too slowly, your health-care provider may suggest rupture of membranes or starting an IV with oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone that is almost the same as your natural labour hormone. It will cause the contractions to get stronger or become more regular.
Monitoring the babyEvidence shows that during normal labour, it is best to monitor the baby at regular intervals. This needs to happen in a way that does not limit your movements. If you have special needs, it may be necessary to monitor the baby using continuous fetal monitors, but this should be used only when needed.
Movement during labourMost hospitals today encourage mothers to move about freely during the early stages of labour because studies show that this mild form of exercise helps speed up labour.
Eating and drinking during labourIn the very early stages of labour, eating and drinking small amounts prevents you from getting dehydrated and helps you keep up your strength. However, most women in active labour do not feel like eating. They may want to have small amounts of clear fluids. If some high-risk problems exist, you may not be allowed any food or drink.
Pain reliefThere are many different ways to help you cope with the pain of labour and childbirth. These range from special breathing to an epidural block. When your pain is under control, it is easier for you to help with the birth. It’s okay to choose natural childbirth (no pain relief ), but it’s also okay to change your mind if the pain becomes too much for you.
PushingAt the end of active labour, the urge to push your baby out suddenly becomes strong. The body naturally wants to bear down (push) a few short times during each contraction. Remember to take breaths in and out between pushes. There is proof that this way of pushing gives the baby the most oxygen. Sometimes, hospital staff might ask you to push a different way. You may be encouraged to take a deep breath and hold it, then push one hard, long push with a deep breath at the end. Evidence shows this method may speed up delivery, but it may also lower the baby’s oxygen levels over time. Sometimes, the cervix is not quite ready for the baby to move through. You may be told not to push. If that happens, you will be told what you can do to avoid pushing (such as a knee-to-chest posture or special breathing).Return to top
Delivery positionsThe best positions for delivery are sitting upright or semi-sitting. These postures seem to lower the time it takes to push a baby out. Lying on your side is also a natural delivery position that has many benefits. Squatting down can be helpful because it improves the angle of the pelvis, giving the baby more room to come out. It also lets gravity do some of the work in helping the baby slide out more quickly. You do not have to worry about having your legs strapped into stirrups. Today’s hospitals do not do that.
EpisiotomyThere is no evidence to support doing an episiotomy for all women (making a cut to widen the opening to the vagina). In fact, there are more benefits to NOT doing this, such as:
- less pain after the baby is born,
- better sexual function later, and
- less relaxation of the pelvic muscles.