What to pack in your hospital bag

Giving birth can be incredibly stressful, especially if you haven’t experienced it before. We’ve outlined what to expect, how to prepare, and what you might need in your hospital bag, so you can have a positive birth experience.

Giving birth can be incredibly stressful, especially if you haven’t experienced it before. For many people, it’s not clear what you need to bring for your hospital stay and what will be provided for you. We’ve outlined what to expect, how to prepare, and what you might need, so you can have a positive birth experience.

What to expect

It’s useful to know what’s going to happen once you get to the hospital, as this can help you think about what you might need during this time. Below is a step by step outline of the birth process.

Make your way to the hospital

You should make your way to the hospital once your contractions have started happening 5 minutes apart and lasting for about a minute each. You can call your midwife if you’re unsure and they can help you decide when to go. Contractions can start happening days before you’re officially in labour, so keep an eye on how long they last.

The first stage of labour

This is the longest part of labour and can last anywhere between 5 and 18 hours, depending on whether you’ve given birth before. This is when your cervix dilates to make room for your baby to pass through and is what causes your contractions. 

The second stage of labour

Once your cervix is fully dilated (about 10 centimetres), you’ll feel the urge to start pushing. The second stage of labour is the time when you’re actively pushing your baby out. It can last between 2 to 3 hours, again depending on if you’ve had a baby before.

The third stage of labour

This refers to the period after you’ve given birth but before your placenta has left your body. You can either push your placenta out naturally or your midwife can provide you with an injection to help speed up the process.

Prepare to go home

If your birth had any complications, the hospital may want to keep you for longer so that they can keep an eye on you. However, once you’ve delivered your baby and your placenta, and you’ve been approved to go, you’re free to leave and start your life with your baby.

How to prepare

It’s useful to have a checklist that you can tick off as you pack your hospital bag. By having a list, you can make sure you’re keeping track of everything and don’t risk missing anything important.

Sometimes babies can surprise us by arriving early. In the case of this happening, it’s a good idea to pack your hospital bag in advance, so that when your labour starts you can head to the hospital without worrying that you’re forgetting something. You should pack your bag 2 weeks before your pregnancy due date; if you’re not sure when this is, you can use a pregnancy due date calculator to figure it out.

What to pack for yourself

The first stage of labour can last for a long time. It can feel even longer when you’re waiting in a hospital and don’t have many home comforts, so you should pack things that make you comfortable and happy whilst you’re waiting for the final push. 

Birth plan and maternity pack 

Depending on if you’ve made a birth plan, and how thorough it is, this information will help your doctors and nurses understand what you’d like from your birth. Your maternity pack will also contain all the notes from your midwife, so it’s good to have these on hand. You can read our article on how to create a birth plan.

Dressing gown, socks, and slippers

If you need to get up and move around, you should feel comfortable doing so! Packing a dressing gown can help you keep warm and cosy if you need to get up to use the bathroom or leave the room. Socks and slippers will also make sure you feel comfortable.

A favourite pillow

Hospitals provide pillows for you, but if you’re specific about the sort of pillows you like, why not bring your favourite one from home?

Something to distract yourself

If you do end up having a long labour, there may be moments when you’d like something to take your mind off your contractions and keep you occupied. You could bring a book or a laptop to watch something on. Try not to do anything too stressful or strenuous though - you should be as relaxed as possible. On top of this, make sure you bring your phone and phone charger with you.

Maternity pads and underwear

You’ll likely need maternity pads for both before and after birth. Before birth, the vagina produces more discharge and ejects your mucus plug, so having some pads on hand will keep you clean. It’s also likely you’ll experience some bleeding after giving birth, so pads will come in useful here too.

Toiletries and medications

Make sure you bring your toothbrush, soap, face wipes, hairbrush, and any other toiletries you might need in your stay - assume that you’ll be there for a couple of days at least, so bring enough to keep yourself clean. If you take any daily medications, make sure you bring them with you as well.

Snacks and drinks

Preparing for labour and giving birth is incredibly taxing. If you have a favourite snack that you don’t think you can get in the hospital, don’t be afraid to bring some with you so that you can re-energise in comfort. You should also bring a big bottle of water with you - you’re likely to get very thirsty from the strain of pushing and hospitals generally only provide water in small cups.

A change of clothes

Once you’ve given birth, you still have to get home. Make sure you bring a comfortable change of clothes for the journey home - don’t forget your coat and your shoes.

What to pack for your baby

Your baby won’t need as much as you, and hospitals often provide the essentials. However, if you want to make your newborn’s first few hours in the world as comfortable as possible, here are some things you can pack for them.

A blanket

The hospital will likely provide a blanket for your baby directly after birth, but if you’d prefer to use your own, you can bring one with you. Try to bring something soft, like cotton or muslin, so you don’t irritate your baby’s skin. Giving your baby a blanket directly after birth can also be great for sentimental value because you can have an object that holds memories from the day.

Clothes to bring home in

As with the blanket, you should bring an outfit that’s comfortable and soft to dress your newborn in. Clothes like stretchy jumpsuits will be the easiest to dress and undress. 

Nappies

Your newborn is likely to have their first bowel movement within 24 hours of being born. To avoid any messy accidents, it’s a good idea to have some nappies on hand and wrap your baby up as soon as you can.

Wipes

In the case that your newborn does have an accident, having some wipes nearby will mean you can clean up any messes quickly.

Car seat

If you’re driving home from the hospital, you must have a car seat set up for your newborn’s safety. Try and set it up before you give birth so that you can strap your baby in with little fuss. 

Final thoughts from Kami

Giving birth is one of the biggest challenges someone can go through. Packing a hospital bag isn’t going to completely reduce any stress you might have, but it can certainly help you feel more organised and prepared for when your baby arrives. It’s better to over-pack than under-pack, so don’t be afraid to fill your bag to the brim with whatever you think you may need. This way, you can feel secure and have one less thing to worry about as you prepare to give birth.

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