By 37 weeks, the majority of mums to be have their hospital bags packed and ready to go at the first sign of the slightest twinge down below. No doubt it will be filled with newborn nappies, vests and baby grows along with multiple packs baby wipes, cotton wool and breast pads. From the baby’s perspective, you’re 100% ready. But what about what you need? 

As an antenatal instructor, the course I teach focusses on how to have a calm, relaxed and positive birth experience, and having experienced a positive birth with both of my babies, I’m often asked by my clients what they should pack to help them relax while in labour.

So here’s my top five essential items that I literally wouldn’t leave home without:

1. MP3’s and music. I’d spent almost my entire pregnancy going to sleep at night listening to my Wise Hippo hypnobirthing MP3s and I would have been absolutely lost without them on the day. I purchased a small, portable speaker that worked really well and made sure all my devices were fully charged with backups just in case….For me there would never have been a worse time to run out of battery!

2. Photos of family and loved ones. Photos of your kids, your dog or simply that beach you visited on your honeymoon is a sure fire way to get the Oxytocin flowing. This is the body’s love hormone and is essential during birth. It’s the sole reason behind the saying ‘hugs before drugs’ because if your body can release oxytocin in high enough levels not only will it ensure your surges are regular, it will mix with your bodies endorphins to act as a natural pain reliever.

3. Your birth plan. If you haven’t written one yet, make it your priority. Without it, you can never expect to get the birth you want for you or your baby.  Midwives and care givers are not mind readers and you should make the assumption that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. It’s also a great exercise to make sure that you and your birth partner are on the same page. Once you’re both happy with it, print it multiple times and hand a copy to literally everyone you come into contact with.

4. Flannel / eye mask. Bright lights stimulate adrenalin in your body, which can slow your surges down. You would rarely see an animal in the wild giving birth out in the open. Even my neighbour’s cat disappeared under the sofa once and came out two days later as a mum of six! An eye mask is the perfect light blocker but my preference was just a simple face cloth which my husband kept wetting with cold water and laying across my eyes while I floated in the pool, relaxing and cooling all in one.

5. A plastic drinking straw. While I appreciate the environmental impacts, this is an item I simply couldn’t have done without and not once did I use it for drinking with! Not many people are aware that a woman’s vagina is physiologically connected to their jaw! Strange but true. And tension held around the jaw will automatically be mirrored down below. The key to a calm and positive birth is to keep the whole body as relaxed as possible –  this is where the straw comes in. If you simply place a drinking straw in your mouth, it positions your lips in such way that it is incredibly difficult to bite your teeth and clench your jaw. Give it a go, it really works.

Of course I had also packed a huge amount of other stuff, just in case I needed it….I didn’t. And yes it looked like we were moving into the Birthing Centre at West Middlesex Hospital but who cares? I felt prepared, I felt ready, I felt excited and that’s all that mattered.

Louisa McDonald