What is Birth Mapping?

Posted 12 Jun 2024


Birth mapping, created by Catherine Bell, is a method that has revolutionised how expecting parents plan for childbirth by considering various scenarios and options. Unlike traditional birth plans, which often outline a single preferred way for the birth to happen, birth maps are allow for parents to carefully consider the different pathways birth could take and the important decision points they may encounter along the way. This approach allows parents to do the necessary research, to make informed decisions, enhancing their confidence and communication with healthcare providers. Bell developed birth mapping to empower parents and ensure they feel grounded in their choices during childbirth. Birth Mapping is founded on a model of care that prioritises the needs and experiences of the mother

Definition and Concept of Birth Mapping

Birth mapping is a visual and strategic tool used to prepare for childbirth. It involves creating a detailed and flexible outline that represents different possible birth scenarios. Unlike a traditional birth plan, which typically describes one preferred birth method or is a list of decisions that may have not been fully explored or treated as only preferences not informed decisions, a birth map considers multiple possibilities and includes plans for unexpected events. This concept was developed to empower parents by providing them with a comprehensive understanding of their options during childbirth.

Benefits of Birth Mapping

One of the main benefits of birth mapping is that it empowers parents to make informed decisions about their childbirth experience. By exploring various options/pathways and understanding the potential outcomes, parents can feel more confident and prepared. Birth mapping also improves communication with healthcare providers, as it clearly outlines the parents’ informed decisions but also allows space and time during pregnancy to have the necessary conversations with caregivers, research interventions and explore all options. Additionally, a birth map allows for a personalised childbirth experience, catering to the unique needs and values of the parents.

The Birth Map

Key Components of Birth Mapping

Healthy Communication with Caregivers

A significant component of birth mapping is fostering healthy communication with healthcare providers. Clear and open communication ensures that caregivers understand the parents’ needs and concerns. This dialogue helps build trust and collaboration between parents and providers, ensuring that everyone is on the same page regarding the birth plan and any potential contingency plans. Healthy communication involves asking questions, discussing various options, and being transparent about risks, benefits and needs.

Information Gathering

A crucial part of birth mapping is gathering information about various birth options and medical interventions. This involves researching the pros and cons of different choices, such as pain management, epidurals, episiotomy, induction, models of care and caesarean sections. Understanding these options allows parents to make well-informed decisions that align with their values. Information can be gathered from books, reputable websites, healthcare providers, childbirth classes, and support groups. The aim is to have a well-rounded understanding of what to expect and the available choices.


One of the key features of a birth map is its adaptability. Unlike a  birth plan that may of not explored all options, a birth map is designed to adapt to unexpected changes during childbirth. Parents can create contingency plans for different scenarios, ensuring they are prepared for various outcomes. This adaptability helps reduce anxiety and allows parents to remain calm and focused during childbirth. Being flexible means being prepared to adjust plans as needed, without feeling overwhelmed by changes because you have already discussed your informed decisions if a deviation from the original plan were to happen.

The Birth Mapping Process

Engaging in a series of 2-3 sessions with a trained birth cartographer, parents embark on the journey of Birth Mapping, a comprehensive approach to preparing for childbirth.

Initial Steps

Commencing early in pregnancy, this process involves gathering reputable information and resources about childbirth. Parents delve into reading materials, attend childbirth classes, and consult healthcare providers to establish a robust understanding of the childbirth landscape. This early groundwork fosters confidence and empowerment.

Collaborative Exploration

Between sessions, parents engage in research and conversations with caregivers and each other. They explore various childbirth scenarios, values, and needs, nurturing a shared understanding and vision for the birth experience.

Creating the Birth Map

With a wealth of knowledge at hand, parents, along with the birth cartographer, commence the creation of their birth map. Partnering with support persons is integral to this phase, as their insights and encouragement are invaluable. The birth map encompasses informed decisions for pain management, delivery positions, interventions, and factors of cultural or personal significance.

Review and Revision

Birth maps are dynamic documents, subject to regular review and revision. As the pregnancy progresses and additional information surfaces, parents may need to refine their plans. Engaging in dialogue with healthcare providers ensures alignment. This ongoing process of review guarantees that the birth map remains pertinent and accurate throughout the journey.

Transition to Birth Plan

Following the Birth Mapping process, the culmination of informed decisions manifests in the birth plan. This plan serves as a succinct summary of all the informed uncovered through the Birth Mapping journey, guiding the course of childbirth with clarity and confidence.

image of birth map

Different Pathways in Birth Mapping

Birth mapping involves exploring different pathways to prepare for various scenarios that might occur during childbirth. These pathways include the Fast Pathway, the Expected Pathway, the Contingency Pathway, and the Postpartum Pathway.

The Fast Pathway

The Fast Pathway is for scenarios where labour progresses quickly. This pathway includes plans for a rapid labour and delivery, ensuring that parents are prepared for a swift process. It might include decisions for immediate pain relief options, quick access to birthing facilities, what the birth needs to do in the situation, and essential preparations for a fast arrival of the baby. Parents planning for the Fast Pathway should be aware of signs of rapid labour and have a plan in place for quickly getting to the birthing location or if unable to what to do in this circumstance

The Expected Pathway

The Expected Pathway outlines the most anticipated scenario for childbirth. This pathway includes detailed plans for a typical labour and delivery process, reflecting the parents’ ideal birth experience. It covers decisions for pain management, delivery positions, support persons, and any specific cultural or personal needs. The Expected Pathway serves as the primary plan, guiding parents and caregivers through the expected progression of labour and birth.

The Contingency Pathway

The Contingency Pathway prepares for unexpected events and complications that might arise during childbirth. This pathway includes plans for various medical interventions, such as emergency cesarean sections, the use of forceps, or vacuum extraction. It ensures that parents are ready to make informed decisions quickly if the need arises as they have already done the research and preparation prior. By considering potential complications and having a plan in place, parents can feel more secure and less anxious about unforeseen changes during labour and birth.

The Postpartum Pathway

The Postpartum Pathway focuses on the period immediately following birth. This pathway includes plans for postpartum care, bonding with the baby, breastfeeding, and recovery. It addresses decisions for rooming-in, skin-to-skin contact, and support during the early days of parenthood. The Postpartum Pathway ensures that parents are prepared for the transition to caring for their newborn and themselves after childbirth. It might also include plans for managing postpartum depression or anxiety, establishing a support network, and accessing necessary resources.

Examples of Birth Maps

Birth maps can vary greatly as they are unique to each and every individual. For example, a birth map for a first-time mother with no medical complications might focus on natural birth options and pain management techniques. On the other hand, a birth map for a mother with a high-risk pregnancy might include also detailed plans for potential medical interventions, possible seperation of baby and mother, and facilitation of delayed cord clamping in case acesarean section is needed. A first-time mother might include decisions for using a birthing ball, and natural pain relief methods like breathing techniques, hypnobirthing and water. Her map might also include a backup plan for transferring to a hospital if needed if she is homebirthing.

Birth Mapping vs. Birth Planning

Understanding the distinction between birth mapping and birth planning is crucial. A birth map is a comprehensive process that involves detailed preparation and exploration of all potential birth scenarios. This process includes gathering information, considering various options, and understanding possible interventions. The birth map encompasses all the in-depth preparation work, helping parents feel grounded and informed about their choices.

Once this thorough preparation is complete, a birth plan is created. The birth plan is a concise summary of the informed decisions made during the birth mapping process. While the birth plan is the final product, the birth map is the extensive groundwork that ensures parents are well-prepared and confident in their decisions.

By doing the birth mapping, parents gain a deeper understanding of their options, which leads to a more empowered, and positive birth experience. This approach ensures that parents are ready for various scenarios, making them feel more in control and less anxious about the birthing process. The birth map and birth plan together create a holistic and well-rounded preparation for childbirth.


Birth mapping is a valuable tool for expecting parents, offering a comprehensive and adaptable approach to planning for childbirth. By exploring various options and preparing for different scenarios, parents can feel more confident and prepared of their childbirth experience. With the right resources and support, birth mapping can help ensure a positive and personalised birth experience. This process, pioneered by Catherine Bell, transforms the way parents approach childbirth, making them active participants in their birthing journey.

Looking to Create a Birth Map?

If you would like to map your birth, book an appointment now with certified birth cartographer Suzy at Maiden Meets Mother. Start your journey towards a confident and empowered childbirth experience today!

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