20 unexpected items to pack in your hospital bag for birth
We chat to mums and birthing experts to find out the more unusual items you might find useful on labour day
1. Disposable knickers
'These can save on washing,' says Alison Edwards, senior lectuer in midwifery at Birmingham City University. 'You'll experience a bit more blood loss than the average monthly period after birth and nice undies can get ruined.'
2. An eye mask
Two of our experts suggested this one. ‘It never goes completely dark on a hospital ward and so using a mask can help you sleep,’ says Alison. Osteopath and doula, Avni Trivedi suggests also using it during labour. ‘When the eyes relax it can help activate the calmer parts of the nervous system. The mask also helps you be less distracted with everything going on around you and helps you tune into your body more.’
This homeopathic remedy is traditionally used for speeding up healing. ‘It was recommended to me when I had my first daughter and I attribute my speedy recovery to taking it. I used it with the subsequent two as well,’ says nutritional therapist Sandra Greenbank. Try Arnica 30c soft tablets, £4.95, helios.co.uk
4. Flight socks
'I was about the only mum who didn’t take these,’ says Trish, mum to Marnie, two. ‘I didn’t realise how much my legs would swell.’
‘Ideally you’ll be heading to the loo frequently to keep emptying your bladder. The bladder sits directly in front of the uterus and if it’s too full, it can stop the baby from descending down into the pelvis. Flip-flops are hygienic and easy to slip on and off for bathroom trips,’ says Avni.
6. Dextro energy tablets
‘A friend of mine recommended these to help keep my energy up and they were a godsend,’ says Louise, mum to Ella 4 and Mia, 3. ‘The small tablets were easy to pop in my mouth and helped me power through.’
7. Battery-operated LED candles
‘Labour works better in dimly lit environments,’ says hypnobirthing teacher Abby Watson, loveyourbirth.co.uk. ‘The hormone oxytocin that is responsible for strong, powerful contractions is reduced in bright lighting. I suggest people pack these LED candles so they can create a more ambient lighting.’
8. Lip balm
‘I had no idea why all the articles I was reading on what to pack said lip balm – I just kept thinking ‘I won’t care whether I have shiny lips’ – after a few hours, I realised it’s because all the breathing really dries your lips out. Mine actually cracked. Next time, it was on the list,’ Karen, mum to Ella, 3 and Alexis, 1.
9. Sports bottles
‘I always tell my patients to pack at least two water bottles,’ says Liz Halliday. ‘One is used for keeping hydrated, which is essential during labour. The second bottle can be incredibly beneficial for women who have had a vaginal birth. The area around the vagina will be delicate for a few days, especially when going to the toilet. Rinsing the area with lukewarm water as you pass urine reduces any stinging and also helps to keep the area clean.’
10. Back scratcher
‘One side effect of the drugs used for an epidural can be intense itching,’ says Liz Halliday, Midwife at Private Midwives. ‘Not everyone experiences this but having a back scratcher to reach difficult places if you do can be a godsend. Cool compresses also help.’
11. A 'bits spritz'
This product was created by Lesley after a forceps delivery left her with quite a lot of perineal pain. ‘The only small bit of relief came when I was in the bath,’ she told us. ‘Afterwards I looked for something to suggest to clients that would soothe the pain, relieve the swelling and itching and had antibacterial properties but couldn’t find anything so we made one,’ she told us. Spritz for Bits, £19.50, myexpertmidwife.com
12. Peanut ball
As the name might suggest, this is a blow up ball that looks like the outer shell of a peanut – two bulges at one end and a thinner middle. You put it between your legs during labour and it helps the baby descend faster. US researchers found women using a Peanut Ball decreased labour time by two hours and had lower risk of caesarean. ‘I recommend a 45cm ball,’ says osteopath and doula Avni Trivedi.
13. Bendy straws
This one came up time and time again. It’s essential to stay hydrated during labour but ‘It’s nigh on impossible to drink from a cup during a water birth or when lying down,’ says hypnobirthing experts Katherine Graves, kghypnobirthing.com. Bendy straws mean the cup comes to you!
14. Dry shampoo
‘This can be really helpful if you can’t get to the shower for a while,’ says Alison Edwards. ‘I also suggest mums pack a face spray or a little hand fan as it can get very hot when giving birth.’ If you’re going talc-free try Rahua Voluminous Dry Shampoo, £20, allbeauty.com or check out Living Proof’s five star option, £23, cultbeauty.co.uk
15. Clary sage oil
‘This is an essential oil and one of its effects is to make uterine contractions stronger and more effective,’ says Katherine Graves. Speak to your midwife about the best time to use it then two drops to a tissue or cotton ball and place this close to where you’re labouring. Don’t go mad though, overusing clary sage can lead to headaches.
16. Nut butter sachets
‘They can be squeezed straight into the mouth for a quick hit of protein and fat. Great if you’re not up to eating much in labour,’ says Avni Trivedi. Try the Tester Squeeze Pack, 12 for £10, pipandnut.com
17. Chewing gum
This is for mums having a caesarean. It’s important after any kind of surgery to get the bowel moving to avoid bloating and constipation. Eating food helps, but if you can’t face that, a recent study from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia found chewing gum works just as well. Chew a stick three times a day for 30 minutes.
18. Ice lollies
‘I have no idea what made me pack these, but I was having a summer birth and it just seemed like a good idea to keep my energy up,’ says Lisa mum of Toby, 2. ‘I could also really crunch down on them during a contraction. My husband brought them in an ice box.’
19. Cooling gel pack
‘Hospitals may provide you with a frozen sachet of water but they’re too rigid and often cause more pain so a gel pack is better,’ says Lesley Gilchrist.’ You’ll need to ask them to put this in the freezer for you when you arrive so make sure it’s clearly marked with your details.’ Try the Feme Pad, £21.99, amazon.co.uk
20. Tupperware box
If you’re planning on keeping the placenta that is. ‘If you’re taking it home to bury it, a large Tupperware with a lid is the perfect receptacle,’ says Milli Hill. ‘If it’s going to be a while before you do this, then store it in the freezer afterwards. If you’re using the placenta for encapsulation then speak to the specialist who is going to do this for you to get their recommended collection and storage advice.’
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