by Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins
Wondering what to bring to the hospital? I’ve got you covered. Read on for suggestions on what to bring and get a few more tips to help you prepare. I’ve also made a 1 page checklist to help you. You can grab your copy below.
Register Ahead of Time
If possible, register ahead of time at the hospital where you plan to give birth. Pre-registering means you give the hospital your demographic and insurance information ahead of time so that they have it in their system. That way, when you come in in labor, no one is asking you what your zip code is in the middle of a contraction. Many hospitals allow you to pre-register online, so check if that’s an option for you.
Do A Dry Run
Before you go into labor, definitely know where to park and where to go in the hospital. Labor happens whenever it happens, including the middle of the night. You don’t want to be struggling trying to figure out where to park or where labor and delivery is at 2 AM in the morning. A great way to learn this is to take advantage of the tours most labor and delivery units offer. If you can’t make a tour, then take time to find out on your own.
Know Your GBS Status
GBS stands for Group B Streptococcus, a type of bacteria. Outside of pregnancy, GBS is not a problem. However, during pregnancy if you carry GBS in your urine, vaginal or rectal area, you could transmit the bacteria to your baby. In rare circumstances GBS will make a baby very sick. About 30% of women are carriers of GBS. Your doctor will test for it with a vaginal and rectal swab between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. If you do carry GBS, you need antibiotics while you’re in labor.
Your Birth Wishes
If you have birth wishes (a.k.a. birth plan), bring 3 copies with you to the hospital for your nurses and doctors.
Comfort Items For Your Labor Room
The environment of your labor room can have a big impact on your birth experience. Feel free to bring music, photos, or diffusers to help make your labor room feel more comfortable and pleasant. A tip I’ve learned from midwives I work with is stringing white Christmas lights in the room. Hospital lights can be harsh, and white Christmas lights create a calm, warming tone.
If you’re planning an unmedicated (a.k.a. natural) birth you’ll likely be walking and moving around to help you cope with contractions. Be sure to bring shoes that are comfortable to walk in and easy to get in and out of, such as slippers.
Getting in the shower or tub is another effective way to manage contractions. If your hospital’s labor and delivery has showers you plan to use, bring a pair of cheap throw away flip flops to wear while you get in. Yes hospitals get cleaned, but it won’t hurt to have a little barrier between you and the hospital floor. If you plan to use the hospital’s tub, you can bring a sports bra or bikini top top to wear when you get in. Your partner can also bring flip flops and swimwear to get in the shower or tub with you.
Something To Occupy Your Time
If you’re going to be induced or you have an epidural, there may be long stretches where you’re passing time. On average, the active part of labor lasts for 8 hours, but it could be significantly longer. So bring your Netflix, books to read, or puzzles to put together to help occupy your time.
FOR AFTER THE BABY
Your Own Stuff
There’s nothing quite like having your own things to make you feel more like yourself. You don’t have to use hospital provided toiletries or wear a hospital gown during your stay. You’ll feel better bringing your own toiletries and comfortable clothes to wear. Just be sure the clothes open in the front or can be easily pulled down so you can breastfeed. Nursing bras or tops are a great comfortable option.
Let’s be honest. Hospital food isn’t exactly gourmet. Also, you may get hungry at times when the hospital cafeteria is closed. So bring a few of your favorite snacks to help keep you nourished during your hospital stay.
FOR GOING HOME
A special going home outfit for your baby is such a nice memory. I still have the outfits that both my girls came home from the hospital in. Also bring a blanket to cover your baby as you’re leaving. It will keep your baby warm and keep well meaning but germy hands from touching your baby. Something that often gets overlooked is a bag to to carry home items you get while at the hospital. There’s usually extra diapers and wipes the hospital provides, so bring a small bag to carry those items home.
WHAT NOT TO BRING
Do not bring jewelry or lots of cash for obvious reasons. You also don’t need to bring your medications or diapers for your baby. The hospital will provide those for you. The hospital will also provide onesies for your baby, but you can bring your own outfits for your baby If you’d like. Bringing a nursing pillow is not a necessity either. And unless you have concerns about how to use it, your breast pump can stay at home as well.
Your partner should bring many of the same things as you including toiletries, change of clothes (including swimwear if they plan to get in the tub or shower with you), entertainment, and any daily medications they take.
PREPPING "DOWN THERE"
Lastly, you might stress about the appearance of your vaginal area and how that might be perceived by your doctor. Well let me tell you - your doctor doesn’t care. I promise. We see vaginas all the time and whether you’re waxed or shaved or bedazzled, it doesn’t matter. So don’t stress if you haven’t waxed. Don’t stress if you haven’t shaved. Also don’t feel like your vagina needs to smell like fruit, flowers, or herbs. Being clean is enough. And even that isn’t a real requirement. We know that labor happens when it happens and a shower or wash up may not be feasible. So bottom line - come to the hospital when it’s time for you to come. We’ll happily care for you as you are .