Plans, preferences or going with the flow: an online exploration of women's views and experiences of birth plans

Divall, Bernie, Spiby, Helen, Nolan, Mary and Slade, Pauline (2017) Plans, preferences or going with the flow: an online exploration of women's views and experiences of birth plans. Midwifery, 54 . pp. 29-34. ISSN 1532-3099

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To explore women’s views of birth plans, and experiences of their completion and use.


A qualitative, exploratory study, using Internet-mediated research methods.


The discussion boards of two well-known, UK-based, online parenting forums, where a series of questions relating to birth plans were posted.


Members of the selected parenting forums who had written and used, or who had chosen not to write or use, a birth plan.


Women responded with a range of views and experiences relating to the completion and use of birth plans. The benefits of birth plans were described in terms of communication with healthcare professionals, potentially enhancing awareness of available options, and maintaining a sense of control during labour and birth. However, many respondents believed the idea of ‘planning’ birth was problematic, and described a reluctance to write a formal plan. The support of healthcare professionals, particularly midwives, was considered essential to the success of both writing and using birth plans.

Key conclusions

Our findings show a continued debate among women on the benefits and challenges involved in writing and using birth plans, suggesting problems for a ‘one size fits all’ approach often seen in the use of birth plan templates. In the context of maternity policy supporting women’s choice and personalised care, and as a way of acknowledging perceived problems of ‘planning’ for birth, a flexible approach to birth plans is required, including the consideration of employing alternative nomenclature.

Implications for practice

Birth plans remain a point of contention in care contexts around the world. Midwives and other healthcare providers play a central role in supporting women to discuss available options, whether or not they decide to complete a formal birth plan.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Birth plans, choice, control, qualitative, online research methods, preparation for labour
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Health Sciences
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Divall, Bernadette
Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2017 10:51
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 19:19

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