Nine months of pregnancy gives you lots of time to plan. From what to name your baby and where to give birth, to which color to paint the nursery and what gear to get. So why not take some time now to write up a birth plan that will help you get clear on how you’d like your childbirth experience to go?

There’s only so much you can control, but it’s empowering and comforting to think that you can have a say in your labor experience.

Getting Started

* Make a one-page statement listing your labor choices and requests.

* Use positive phrases about what you want, but be careful not to write a novel.

* Be clear about the things that mean the most to you.

Taking a childbirth class, such as the Bradley Method or Lamaze, may give you knowledge about the birthing process, your choices, and what you can ask for during labor.

Things to Consider

* Who you want in the birthing room with you. For example, you might prefer only your OB or midwife, a nurse, and specific family members, but no interns or medical students.

* How you want to manage labor pain — naturally or with an epidural.

* Do you want to get an epidural right away or wait as long as you can before getting pain medicine?

* Do you want to be able to walk around? An epidural won’t let you do that — unless you get an ultra low-dose or “walking epidural.” Check with your hospital to see if they administer the walking type.

* Do you want to be able to have fluids by mouth (to stay hydrated), or are you okay with an IV?

* What kind of environment would you like — lights dimmed, quiet, music of your choice, etc.

* Would you prefer not to have continuous fetal monitoring? Be aware that this request cannot always be honored, since your baby's health condition might mandate constant monitoring.

* Would you like to avoid an episiotomy?

* Is there a specific position you’d like to give birth in — squatting, on hands and knees, on your side, etc.

* Would you prefer not to be separated from your baby after birth; would you like your newborn to have an in-room evaluation and/or have a parent or caretaker with your baby at all times?

* Do you plan on banking your baby's umbilical cord blood?

* Would you like to breastfeed right away? Would you like to breastfeed exclusively during your hospital stay (no formula)?

* If you are delivering at a birthing center or at home, do you have a back-up transportation plan in case you have to go to the nearest hospital?

Reviewing with Your Practitioner

As your due date approaches, go over your plan with your OB or midwife. Your health practitioner may offer ideas about what is or isn’t possible due to the nature of your pregnancy, or the policies of the hospital or birthing center.

Sticking to Your Plan

When you go into labor, bring extra copies of your plan with you to the hospital or birthing center. Keep one on hand (or in your suitcase) and give copies to the nurses, midwives, or doctors. Most importantly, let your health care providers know that this list describes your wishes — not your demands — and that you are willing to be flexible and work with them.

If you end up experiencing a normal, uncomplicated birth, your wishes should be easy to follow. However, labor is unpredictable and if there are any complications, your health care providers may have to deviate from your plan. The most important thing to remember is that they are there to do what’s best for you and your baby.

If things don’t go according to plan, don’t get down on yourself about it. Maybe you wanted a vaginal birth, but ended up with a C-section. Or perhaps you planned on foregoing pain medication, but ended up wanting an epidural. All that matters is that your newborn has arrived into the world healthy, safe and sound.