Over the last 4 years I have gathered quite a “bag of tricks” that I bring along to births that I attend as a labor support doula. Some of what is inside my bags was passed on to me from other doulas, some of the things I picked up at my recent Midwifery Assistant class at The Farm and some I figured out on my own.
I don’t always use everything that I bring along, but it is nice to always have the option should I need something that could provide comfort to the mother in labor.
I personally only bring one bag along, a back pack, since I want to have my hands free to help the mother and carry anything that she needs. My back pack has three compartments. So let’s start with the front and work our way back.
Small front pocket
My watch. I don’t always time the contractions, but I like to get an idea of how long the contractions are lasting and how far apart they are. Plus, I keep detailed notes of all internal checks and other relevant information, for example, when we go to the birthing center or hospital or when the water breaks.
Pens and Notes books. This is for my note taking.
Toothpicks- I often bring cut fruit for everyone that will be involved at the birth. This is a good way to create diplomatic relationships with the hospital staff. Plus, I am a strong believer that laboring women should not be starving themselves. So if mom wants a piece of easily digestible fruit, it is right there waiting for her. (I also bring frozen grapes since they also have natural sugar and are refreshingly cold)
Those that have given birth might be confused to why I bring food since many hospitals state they only want the patient to have only clear fluids or ice chips. Here is my reason: Lamaze International states: “A recent review of the research on this topic found that there is no evidence that restricting food and fluids in normal labor is beneficial.15 Recent research shows that eating and drinking are safe in normal labor.15,20,26,29 Based on the best evidence available, food and fluid should not be routinely restricted in labor.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend that clear fluids be given to low-risk woman during labor.3 The American College of Nurse-Midwives recommends that healthy women experiencing normal labors determine for themselves what, if anything, they wish to eat or drink.1 The Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group recommends a diet of easy-to-digest foods and fluids during labor.13 “
Washcloth – even though the hospital has paper towels, I find a soft terry cloth washcloth is much more comfortable on mom’s neck and face.
Plastic Ziplock bags- I have been quite fortunate that I have never needed to use the bags for this purpose, but the cab ride to the hospital can be bumpy and uncomfortable and mom may vomit. Often times we go to the hospital rather late in the labor process and vomiting is a sign of transition!
Corn Starch- It is not good to use baby powder during labor since inhaling talcum powder is not good for you or baby. So instead I bring corn starch. More often I use massage oil, but if the mother doesn’t like the feeling of oil, I have the corn starch available.
Several packs of high quality hard candy or honey sticks- if the mother does not want to eat or drink anything and she is not receiving intravenous fluids, it is likely that her blood sugar will drop. In that case, sucking or chomping on a hard candy can perk her back up.
Middle Pocket on the Bag.
Bendy Straws- When mom is in hard labor or pushing, it is much easier just to place the bendy straw at her lips then to try to have her sip from a cup.
Big plastic bag- After I leave the birth and before I step foot back in my apartment, I take off my shoes and place them in the plastic bag and then wash my shoes before wearing them again. Birth can be a rather messy experience. I could have possibly stepped on vomit, urine, amniotic fluid, or blood. I certainly don’t want to track that back into my house.
Hydrogen Peroxide- I typically wash off the sink, counter, toilet and bath tub. I know that the rooms should be cleaned, but I would rather do a quick cleansing of the space before hand.
Band aids and Neosporin – should I or anyone else at the birth get a cut, a hospital is no place for an open wound.
Soft gardeners pad- the mother may want to be on her hands and knees, so a little padding could go a long way.
Inside the small toiletry bag-
*toothbrush and tooth paste. I am often very close to mom’s face, she doesn’t need to smell my coffee breath!
* massage and aromatherapy oils- I bring several different options, lavender, Bindi herbal massage oil, lemon, peppermint and non-fragrant.
* hair bands for both mom and me
* lip balm- women in labor often breath heavily and their lips get dry. A little lip balm can be very comforting.
* deodorant- always want to smell fresh!
*nail file, advil, cough drops, tea (caffeinated, for me!), wet naps, emergen-C or airborne (hospitals are full of germs), energy bars, cough drops
Yoga Strap- should mom want to do a supported squat and my arms and hands are tired.
Big Pocket of the Bag
Birth Ball and pump- I take a 65 cm ball and a VERY good, quick pump with me. I recommend to all my clients that they have one to use at home before the birth, but in case it gets left behind, I have one on hand. The ball is EXTREMELY useful. Most laboring women use it to sit on, lean against, hang on…the possibilities are endless! Even if mom doesn’t end up using it that much, it provides another seat for the people in the room, since generally there is only one chair available.
Hand held fan- labor is tough work and mom will build up a sweat. So a little cool breeze could feel real nice.
Squirt bottle- this has two purposes. 1. I add a little bit of essential oil (what ever smell mom likes) and spritz it around the room. Labor doesn’t always smell so good! 2. it could feel really good for the hot laboring mom to get a refreshing mist of cooling, yummy smelling water on her face, neck, chest or back.
Eye pillow- this could feel really good on the laboring mom’s eyes if she is resting. It could be heated or chilled.
I hope that some of these tips and suggestions can help make mom and her labor partners more comfortable.