Are you prepared for the birth of your baby?
From about 35 weeks of pregnancy it is a good idea to put together what you might need during and after the birth of your baby. Preparing a ‘tool kit’ for labour can help you feel more prepared and comfortable during the birth of your baby, particularly if you are giving birth in hospital or birth centre. The kit can contain items that make your birthing space feel more personal, as well as items that can assist the labour process.
The following is a list of items you may want to have in your birth kit, which can be adjusted to suit your own needs. You may also want to ask your caregiver if there is anything specific you will need. Remember that your partner and/or support person also need supplies.
For the car
If you need to travel to a hospital or birth centre you may need some items for the car such as a container in case you need to vomit or some towels to sit on in case your water breaks. You may also want to take a pillow so you are more comfortable.
A birth plan is simply a list (preferably typed) of your preferences for labour and birth. Obviously things don’t always go the way you hope or expect, but a birth plan can let your caregiver know what your preferences are, particularly in relation to pain relief and interventions. If you are having your baby in a hospital or birth centre it is a good idea to take a few copies of your birth plan so everyone is clear on what you want.
You may be in labour for a few hours so it is a good idea to have all the toiletries you may need at hand to feel fresh. Items may include: tooth brush, tooth paste, shampoo, conditioner, hair dryer, hair brush, hair clips, deodorant, moisturizer, sanitary or maternity pads, lip cream, face washer and a small plant spray, filled with water to spray on your face.
It is a good idea to have two sets of comfortable clothes with you for labour such as cotton pyjamas, a baggy t-shirt, a short nightie or dress or a sarong just in case what you are wearing gets wet or soiled. You may also want to take a dressing gown or cardigan, in case you get cold. Your hospital or birth centre may require your partner to wear a swimming costume if they are going to join you in the bath or shower so it is a good idea to pack some of these. Labouring women often get cold feet so you may also want to take a couple of pairs of warm socks, as well as comfortable shoes or slippers for walking around.
Take plenty of snacks and drinks for you and your support team. Eating and drinking use to be prohibited for the labouring woman in case she needed a general anaesthesia, and some doctors and hospitals still take that position. However, most healthcare practitioners do allow liquids and light snacks such as honey, sugar-free lollipops, nuts, fruit, chocolate, muesli bars, flavoured ice blocks, toast and dried fruit during a low-risk labour so the woman can maintain her energy. It is best to stay away caffeine and fizzy drinks but herb tea, bottled water are nonacidic juices (such as apple and pear) are great to avoid dehydration. You may also want to pack some bendable straws so you can sip on drinks throughout labour.
You may want to personalize your birth space to feel more comfortable. You can do this by having your own pillow with you, your favourite cds (check whether your birth place has a CD player), books and magazines. You may even want to have photographs or pictures with you to use as a calming visual focus.
Labour massage oil
Massage is widely recommended these days to ease the pain of labour. You can make up your own special massage oil blend using a range of essential oils for your support people to massage into your back during the first stage of labour. To make your ‘labour oil’ purchase a brown glass bottle from a pharmacy or health food shop, add 30ml of sweet almond oil (available from health food shops), and 15 drops of your chosen essential oils. Essential oils recommended for the delivery room include: Rose, which is a uterine relaxant, helps the ligaments soften and as a slight analgesic effect; Lavender, which is calming and stimulates circulation thus assisting breathing; Neroli, which facilitates breathing and has a calming effect in low doses; Geranium, which benefits the uterus, is uplifting and is one of the best circulatory oils and Clary Sage (do not confuse with Sage) which is a uterine tonic, mild analgesic and calming.
You may want to burn one of the essential oils mentioned above in an electric oil burner to cleanse the air and provide a welcoming aroma for the baby. Don’t overdo it though – you don’t want vague supporters. If you are having your baby in a hospital you may need to ask beforehand whether or not they allow oil burners. If they don’t, you can always add a drop of essential oil to some cottonwool or a handkerchief and breathe in the aroma when you need it.
Heat and cold packs
Ice packs and hot water bottles are great for relieving sore back muscles. Make sure the hot water bottle has a cover or wrap it in a towel before use. Some women find alternating heat packs and cold packs helps to relieve pain. Hot towels can also be held on the abdomen to relieve pain.
Bach or Australian Bush Flower essences, particularly ‘rescue’ or ‘emergency’ remedies can be of great assistance during childbirth. They aim to treat emotional states, balances moods and calm the mind. There are many other flower essences in the Australian Bush Flower range that can assist with different aspects of labour but it advised that you consult a practitioner to see what may be the best remedies for you. Homoepathics and herbal remedies can also assist a labouring women, but again, it is best to see a qualified practitioner to have these remedies tailor made for your own requirements.
Other items you may like to have in your labour kit include:
- Coins, phone card, list of people to call
- Camera, video camera, plenty of film
- Pregnancy card, Medicare card, private health insurance details
- Paper bag in case you hyperventilate
When your baby is born, it will probably be covered with vernix and some blood. Some hospitals routinely use antiseptic solutions or mineral oil to clean the baby’s skin, however some skin specialists believe this practice can irritate the baby’s skin sometimes leaving it prone to rashes and infections (Neonatal Network, 1999, pp15-27). There is no medical reason to bath your baby straightway so you can ask to delay this if you wish. Alternatively, you can take your own ‘baby oil’ and ask for your baby to be cleaned with this. The best oil to use on your newborn are extra virgin olive oil and sweet almond oil. These can be combined or used alone for the first 48 hours.
For after the birth
If you are having your baby in a hospital or birth centre you will be supplied with a list of things you will need to take for your stay after the birth. The following is a list of additional items you may want to take with you.
- Calendula cream, from a homoeopath or health food shop, for a tender perineum
- Some women can develop haemorrhoids after pushing their baby out. Cotton wool pads dipped into witchhazel or a witchhazel ointment (available from health food shops) can relieve these.