birth preferences
Labour & birth

Outlining your birth preferences

Paula Barry, Research Midwife at the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital explains why outlining your birth preferences can help you to communicate your goals and wishes to the team helping you with your baby’s labour and delivery.

Your birth partner

  • Who will accompany you in labour?
  • Are there times during labour that you would prefer your birth partner to leave the room?
  • When you are in labour would you like to talk to your partner in private about interventions that may be suggested?

Birth environment

  • Have you discussed the delivery suite environment with your doctor/ midwife?
  • Have you been able to go on a tour of the delivery suite?
  • Have you thought about some personal items that you may wish to bring with you to help you cope in labour?

Coping in labour/birth

  • Have you thought about ways of managing labour pain?
  • Have you discussed these with your doctor/midwife?
  • Do you want to remain upright and mobile for as long as possible?
  • Have you thought about the position in which you would feel most comfortable giving birth?
  • Have you discussed with your doctor/ midwife the various birthing aides available to you in the delivery suite?

Monitoring your baby’s heartbeat

  • Have you discussed the various ways in which your baby’s heartbeat may be monitored?
  • Do you understand the reasons why your baby may need continuous heart rate monitoring?


  • Have you thought about the moment of ‘birth’?
  • Would you like to touch/see (with a mirror) your baby’s head when he/ she is about to be born?
  • Would you like the midwife to encourage you by verbally instructing you on how and when to push, or would you like to push instinctively if possible?
  • If you had a Caesarean Section for a previous birth, have you considered a vaginal birth for this pregnancy?


  • Have you discussed with your doctor/midwife situations where an episiotomy may be necessary?
  • How do you feel about episiotomy?

Third stage (delivery of the placenta)

  • Do you want a managed third stage?
  • Would you prefer a natural third stage?
  • Have you discussed both with your doctor/midwife to ascertain which may be safest for you? SKIN TO SKIN/FEEDING
  • Do you want your baby to be placed on your abdomen/chest after birth?
  • Have you discussed with your doctor/midwife the importance of early breastfeeding?

birth preferences

Vitamin K

  • Have you discussed the reasons why it is recommended that Vitamin K be administered to your baby?
  • Have you discussed the methods by which Vitamin K can be administered?

Induction of labour

  • Are you aware of the reasons why your labour may need to be induced?
  • What are your thoughts on induction of labour?
  • Have you discussed induction of labour with your doctor/midwife?

Speeding up labour

  • Are you aware of the reasons why it may be necessary to ‘speed up’ your labour? Have you discussed with your doctor/midwife what this may entail?

Unexpected outcomes

  • Have you discussed with your doctor/ midwife if a concern arises with you or your baby and an intervention such as a vacuum, forceps or C-section is necessary?
  • Have you discussed with your doctor/midwife that if a Caesarean section is necessary the possibility of you needing to have a general anaesthetic?
  • Have you discussed with your doctor/ midwife that if a C-section is necessary the possibility of your partner accompanying you to theatre?

Early transfer home / community midwifery service

  • Have you discussed the possibility of you being able to avail of this service with your doctor/midwife?

Special needs

  • Have you had a past experience that may affect your labour/birth?
  • Do you have a disability that you want to discuss with your team?
  • Do you need a special diet after the birth?
  • If you have religious needs, please discuss them with your doctor/ midwife.

More like this:

Everything you need to know about labour positions
Maternity options in Ireland
Hospital bag checklist

Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.



Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.