As your due date approaches, you may be wondering what’s essential to include in your hospital bag, and what you can afford to leave at home. And, if you’re having a C-section (planned or unplanned), you may have even more questions with regards to what to pack, and what you might need to help you heal and make your life as a new mom that little bit easier.
At this stage, the aim is to keep things simple and only pack what you need as you might feel overwhelmed otherwise. First and foremost, you want to focus on bonding with your new baby and only using the essential items you’ve packed to help you cope better in hospital (and at home).
The birth and healing process
Giving birth is hugely physically demanding,” explains author and world-renowned nutritionist, Patrick Holford. “If you have a vaginal birth, you’ll more than likely feel sore, especially if you’ve torn or had to have stiches. And if you’ve had a C-section, remember you’re recovering from major abdominal surgery and it’ll take 6-8 weeks before you can return to normal activities,” he explains.
The truth is, your body undergoes enormous changes to support your growing baby during pregnancy, and then again through the birth process and during the postpartum period.
According to the Women’s Health Network, a division of the US Department of Health & Human Services, whether you’re planning a natural birth or C-section, there are a few common physical changes you can expect after birth, including:
- A vaginal discharge called lochia, which might be heavy and bright red at first, becoming lighter in flow and colour later.
- Swelling in your legs and feet.
- Constipation – as your digestive system adjusts to all the pre-and postpartum changes.
- Menstrual-like cramps, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
- Leaking nipples – our breasts might also feel full, tender and uncomfortable.
So, what can you pack in your hospital bag to help you prepare for these changes?
For a natural birth or C-section delivery, you’ll need a few key items in your hospital bag such as:
- Sanitary pads and breast pads
- Compression socks to help reduce the swelling and prevent possible blood clots
- An oral electrolyte replacement solution like Rehidrat
- Linen savers
- Nursing bras (or comfortable sports bras if you’re not planning on breastfeeding)
- Soft, cotton button down shirts or vests for feeding
- Brush or comb and hair ties.
- Toiletries such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, face cloth and soap
- Dry shampoo if you don’t plan on taking a shower in the hospital. (If you have a C-section, you’ll have a waterproof dressing covering your wound, so you can shower if you’re feeling up to it.)
- Facial wipes
- Lip balm
- Body and face cream (natural, fragrance-free products are best)
- Your phone charger
- Snacks to keep in your bedside drawer
Your C-section hospital bag checklist
While there are similarities with both hospital bags (mentioned above), your C-section hospital bag will differ slightly from your vaginal birth hospital bag. For instance:
- Your expected hospital stay will be shorter, so you won’t need to bring much reading material or as many snacks and drinks.
- You also won’t need as many changes of clothes, as most women stay in hospital gowns at least for the first 24 hours after birth.
However, there are a few helpful items, specific to C-section recovery that new mom, Nicola Harrison found to be really helpful, and some items she wished she’d packed, but didn’t:
- Loose pants – “I didn’t want to wear anything that was too tight on my lower stomach. Harem pants are ideal. I bought 2 pairs before my due date, because they’re really baggy and only gather at the ankles.”
- Loose maternity tops – “I wore some of my maternity tops in hospital because my stomach was still bloated.”
- Underwear a size up to what you usually wear. “I was swollen and sore and didn’t want anything to be tight on my cut.”
- A small bowl or cup for brushing your teeth when you can’t move around – “I had a catheter for 24 hours, so I couldn’t get up to wash my face or brush my teeth. Luckily, I bought face wipes, but wish I’d taken a small bowl with me to help brush my teeth.”
- A soft pillow from home – “I used it to put against my stomach when laughing or sitting up. It was also helpful to put my son, Arlo on, instead of holding him all the time. I found holding him very painful, but I had a complicated C-section and was very sore.”
- A feeding pillow – “I forgot my feeding pillow, which I think would have been easier on my stomach than holding my son for feeds.”
- Fruit juice and a few sweets – “I was only allowed liquids on the first day, so I packed a few fruit juices to sip on. After that first walk, I felt very light-headed and my blood sugar dropped so sweets would have been useful, too.”
What to do for trapped gas after a C-section
Although Nicola personally didn’t suffer from trapped wind after her C-section, she knows many moms who did. To help with this, midwives suggest drinking prune juice to ease constipation and drinking plenty of fluids and peppermint tea to relieve trapped wind, so it’s highly recommended to pack these in your hospital bag, too. (Moving around will also help a lot to dislodge gas, and fruits and veggies high in water and fibre will help to get the bowels working.)
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike. Learn more about Tammy Jacks .