Packing your hospital bag can be a task that’s easily overlooked. Sometimes you wait until the last minute and sometimes you have no idea what to pack. Oftentimes though, you pack tons of things you don’t need, while overlooking the things you do. Here’s the ultimate guide to what to pack in your hospital bag for the birth of your baby:
Special / Optional
Nausea can be a debilitating feeling. Although ‘morning sickness’ is typically a fairly short-term pregnancy symptom, it can feel never-ending. Here are some natural and pregnancy safe remedies for curbing nausea.
Eat Often and Eat Small
It can be counterintuitive to eat food when you feel nauseous, but actually, an empty stomach can cause nausea. Eating small, frequent meals will help you avoid nausea. For some pregnant people, this means eating a quick snack before they get out of bed in the morning. For others, this can mean filling up on a smoothie before bed, or even waking up for a midnight snack. It’s best to keep snacks with you, on the go, so you don’t get caught without food. Packing some apple sauce or peanut butter packets, and a few granola bars can make a world of difference. Depending on the severity of the birther’s nausea, the frequency of meals will need to be adjusted.
The most common natural anti nausea remedy is ginger, and it really works! There are tons of ginger remedies sold specifically for nausea and pregnancy. Ginger chews, ginger ale, ginger lozenges. There’s not one that’s better than the other, so it’s really personal preference. You can buy these anywhere, and they also make tasty treats even when you aren’t nauseous.
Another great flavor for controlling nausea is sour. A lot of pregnant people love sour chews. One client of mine would suck the sour coating off of Sour Patch Kids when she first woke up in the morning, and that was the only way she could start her day without feeling nauseous. There are also many sour products targeted specifically for pregnant people, so these are easy to find.
Mint can help with nausea as well. A very useful and effective mint nausea remedy is diffusing peppermint essential oil. This can be particularly useful in households, or in offices, where other options may not be as easily accessible. As always, check with your doctor about essential oil safety during pregnancy.
Smoothies Instead of Solid Food
Sometimes solid food can be too harsh on a sensitive stomach. And eating saltines and toast isn’t sustainable nutritionally for a developing baby and pregnant person. A fantastic way to get nutrients and eat without nausea, is to make smoothies! Combine your favorite fruits and veggies along with a protein powder and scoop of almond butter, mix together with milk or dairy free substitute, and blend! Sipping on a smoothie can help you get the nutrients your body needs, without worrying about solid food causing additional nausea during digestion.
Increasing Vitamin B6 intake can be incredibly effective at treating pregnancy nausea. A typical dosage is 10-25 mg a few times a day. Always ask your doctor before taking any vitamins during pregnancy. Even though Vitamin B6 in standard doses is not harmful to the fetus or birther, large quantities of any vitamin can be unsafe. Luckily, with a doctor regulated dose, Vitamin B6 is incredibly effective, inexpensive, and doesn’t require a prescription.
Motion Sickness Bracelets
Motion sickness bands have mixed reviews amongst pregnant people, but if other options are not working, they’re definitely worth a try. Motion sickness bracelets are bracelets that apply light pressure to an acupressure point on the inner wrist, which reduces nausea. These can be great in combination with other methods, as they’re minimally invasive and have no side effects or safety regulations.
Acupressure / Acupuncture
Acupressure and acupuncture are so phenomenal for pregnant people for so many reasons, but are wonderfully life changing when it comes to nausea. Some insurance plans even cover acupuncture visits for pregnant people, so be sure to look into that! As always, check with your doctor before scheduling a visit with an acupuncturist, and be sure to tell your acupuncturist how far along in your pregnancy you are, as triggering some pressure points could result in early labor.
Essential oils are incredibly useful and effective when used properly during labor. They can curb nausea, relieve anxiety, and provide pain relief. When used safely, essential oils can be an incredible non-invasive way to support a birther during labor.
Essential Oil Safety
First and foremost, it’s important to buy reputable and authentic essential oils. They should be decently expensive and come in small glass containers. Anything over 20 ml or under $10 is probably not trustworthy. Using a low quality or artificial oil can disrupt estrogen levels, which is counterproductive to the natural release of chemicals during labor.
Secondly, essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin. They are concentrated oils, and can have adverse reactions when applied to skin. (Some people recommend applying essential oils topically, I do not). Unless specifically advised by a medical doctor, do not apply any non diluted essential oils to the skin. It’s also a bad idea to apply them to your skin during labor in case you get sick of a certain scent, or have an adverse reaction.
What Essential Oil Scents to Use
There are three general scents you should use during labor. A floral scent, a citrus, and a mint. All three serve different purposes and can be useful for different emotions and sensations during labor.
A floral scent, such as lavender or lily, can be used to relax. This can be helpful to release anxiety, ground your baby and body, and center yourself into your labor. Partnering a calming scented essential oil with affirmations or hypnosis can be a wonderful way to incorporate all senses during labor.
A citrus essential oil, like orange, can give a real energy boost during labor. If you’re getting ready to push, or trying to incorporate movement, utilizing a citrus essential oil can give you a boost of energy without a crash.
A mint essential oil, like peppermint, can curb nausea. Mint scents are particularly helpful during transition, which is when most birthers experience nausea during labor.
How to Use Essential Oils
“The Waft Method” - My personal favorite method is wafting the essential oil under your nose, back and forth. If labor is too intense, having a doula or partner waft it for you is particularly helpful. The movement of the essential oil makes it so you can continue to smell it, as opposed to keeping it in one spot and getting used to the scent. This also allows for easily switching up the scents depending on preference or need. You can also apply a few drops of essential oil to a cloth and waft the cloth under your nose, as opposed to the bottle of essential oils.
“Diffusing” - Probably the most common method of using essential oils is with a diffuser. You can buy any diffuser and place a few drops of essential oils into it, creating fragrance for the entire room. If you do choose to diffuse, please ask the hospital / birthing staff if anyone has allergies or sensitivity to essential oils before use. Additionally, this can be frustrating if the birther gets sick of a certain scent, and there is no way to remove the scent from the air. Adversely, everyone in the room benefits from diffusing essential oils. The birther, partner, doula, and medical staff all reap the benefits of essential oils and diffusing them creates a calming and positive environment for everyone involved.
“Urinary Relief” - Perhaps the least known but most amazing benefit of peppermint essential oil is its ability to make you urinate. During active labor, it’s important to empty the bladder before pushing, as to free up space for the baby’s head to descend into the pelvis. However, the many sensations of labor and contractions can make it difficult to urinate. A lesser known essential oil trick is to place a few drops of peppermint essential oil into the toilet bowl (*do not apply to skin or vulva) and sit. The sensation of the peppermint oil from the water causes the urethra to release urine. And voila, you’ve peed!
Essential oils are safe and effective when used properly during labor. As always, ask your doctor or midwife for their opinion and advice on essential oils. A doula can help with essential oil questions and use during the stages of labor - and most doulas keep a few in their bag!
Expectant parents have a never ending to-do list to prepare for a new baby. Somewhere at the top of the list should be creating a birth plan. During birth, the frontal lobe - aka the decision making and logical thinking part of our brain - turns off. The majority of brain activity is focussed in the back of our brain - the mammalian part. Which is convenient that our bodies inherently know how to birth offspring and will naturally do so, but unhelpful when an array of modern medical procedures and interventions are presented to us without the ability to think critically. A birth plan provides the opportunity to review the evidence for various birth procedures prior to labor, while the ability to think critically and rationally is still functioning.
What is a Birth Plan?
A birth plan is a list of preferences for your ideal birth. Your birth plan should include your desires about early and active labor, medical intervention, pushing, and newborn care. Birth plans are not set in stone, as many variables change throughout the entire process. Birth plans are unique to each birth - so you should rewrite one for each pregnancy. Most doulas have their own checklist or outline for formatting a birth plan, but some hospitals have premade birth plans their staff are more familiar with. It’s best to check with your obstetrician or midwife to see what is routine for their practice.
A successful birth plan is maximum one page in length. It can seem overwhelming to shorten all this info into a single page, but a doula can be helpful in discussing where your birth plan specifics differ from routine practice.
What’s the Importance of a Birth Plan?
A birth plan is less a concrete, unchangeable outline of your labor, and more an educational resource for the birther. The process of creating a birth plan allows the birther to explore evidence based information regarding birthing procedures and interventions. This provides an added layer of advocacy and autonomy for the birther, so they can be better prepared for the options that will be given to them during labor. A birth plan will inform the labor and delivery staff of your preferences. Some birthers who want to achieve natural labor would prefer the staff doesn’t offer an epidural or narcotics. This can be specified in a birth plan. Additionally, if your obstetrician is not available for your birth (which is common unless in the case of a planned induction), the obstetrician delivering your baby will be more familiar with your preferences.
Birth plans can also include trauma and sexual trauma history. These topics are essential to birth, but rarely included in medical history. It is a safe, unspoken, non triggering way to disclose your trauma history with your medical team. Additionally, having a doula who’s aware of your previous trauma can help advocate for you in a safe and respectful way.
Creating a birth plan also gives the partner of the birther the ability to be included in the decision making process for their child. Even though the partner is not birthing the child, establishing a mutually agreed on birthing plan involves the partner in the first decisions being made in their child’s life.
Why Should I Create a Backup Birth Plan?
I can almost guarantee your birth will not be identical to how it was envisioned. Every labor is unique, each baby presents differently, and there are hundreds of variables in a single labor. Creating a backup birth plan prepares the birther to advocate for themselves in an unpredictable scenario. If the birther was planning a vaginal delivery, but an unforeseen cesarean is unavoidable, a backup birth plan could include preferences for a cesarean delivery. This makes the change more palatable, and leaves the birther and their partner less overwhelmed. Having a backup birth plan can also help in reflecting and honoring the birth. At least one thing is set to change from your initial goal for labor, and having a backup plan or alternative possibilities can help the birther feel more confident in their birth even though their initial desires had to be adjusted. This can be extremely useful in the months to come as the birther reflects on their birthing experience.
Topics / Procedures Included in a Birth Plan:
Your birth plan should include your preferences sorted into three sections: background details, labor & giving birth, and after birth.
Labor & Giving Birth:
A doula can help provide you the unbiased education and evidence based studies for procedures and interventions that could take place during birth. Scheduling a prenatal visit with a doula can help you and your partner discuss the best options for your birth plan.
Tessa Vasiliadis is a birth doula in the Greater Boston area. Tessa is passionate about reproductive rights and education, as well as creating a healthy and successful birthing experience for all birthers regardless of gender identity, race, or socioeconomic status.