Birth Plans are a great idea for any pregnant person to have ready! We all know birth is unpredictable and having a "plan" in place is no guarantee that anything will go in any particular way. However, the great thing about putting together a Birth Plan is that it makes you think about how you'd want things to go ideally…and it helps prepare you for the alternatives.
There are so many interventions that you may wish to avoid (or elect to have) during your birth experience, and preparing your Birth Plan is a great way to discover what all these interventions are and what they mean for you and your baby. I found that for my pregnancy, the easiest thing for me to do was find a template for a birth plan (BabyCenter has a good one HERE) and then researched the options in each section to determine what best fit my preferences.
You can start putting together your preferences as early as your first trimester, although the recommendation is to have some sort of idea ready by your 5th month of pregnancy. It's important to know as early as possible what is important to you (for example, perhaps you absolutely DO NOT wish to have continuous monitoring so you can move freely during labor, or maybe you absolutely NEED to eat and drink during labor) so that you can discuss these things with your care provider. The reason it's best to do this early is because it gives you the best chance of finding a doctor or midwife you LOVE, should you decide your current care provider is not the best match for the type of birth experience you have in mind. *By the way, remember you can ALWAYS change doctors…even at the very VERY last minute!
If you and your care provider agree that your plan is feasible and safe, and you are SURE your provider is giving you the best possible care and not just considering what is most convenient for THEM, then a good idea is to have the doctor sign your birth plan. It's not in any way a binding contract or anything, but the idea is that if you go into labor and arrive at the hospital or birth center before your care provider does, you can have something to show the nurses and support staff that shows that your care provider is on board with your preferences. It's also important to have several copies on the day of the birth for the nurses, your doula, etc. Every one that comes in contact with you during your labor should see your birth plan, to avoid miscommunications or misunderstandings.
You can include things in your birth plan regarding pain management, what you wish to happen to the baby immediately after birth (like immediate skin to skin and waiting to do newborn exams for an hour so you have a chance to bond, for example), and your plans for feeding your baby (bottle or exclusively breast feeding?).
It's definitely important to be flexible and be ready to forgive yourself if things don't go exactly as you'd hoped…The most important thing is to be educated about all of your options so that if things DO need to go in a different direction, you are equipped to make the best choices for you and your baby. Remember, even if your Birth Plan doesn't come to fruition, preparing one is always beneficial because it familiarizes you with your options (and their risks and benefits), and the policies of your care center and provider.
What advice would you give a first time mother about preparing a birth plan? What is something you think every plan should include?