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 Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.


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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.