It's late in your third trimester and you're gathering things you might want for the big day. You've packed a change of clothes and your travel toiletries, of course, but what are you taking with you to the hospital that will help bring you comfort -- and relieve pain -- in labor? Whether you've hired a doula or not, are planning to have an epidural or not, it's ideal to bring at least a handful of items you can use to help get you through your labor more comfortably. Let's take a look at some of our favorite options.
Massage tools - Lotion or massage oil and handheld massage tools can help your partner, doula, or loved one provide pinpointed comfort during labor, especially to areas like your lower back and feet. Throw in a tennis ball or similar sized rubber ball (you can find them at the Dollar Store) to use as a cheap and effective massage tool on your lower back or sciatic.
Heating pad or rice sock - Heat can work wonders to relieve lower back pain or "back labor" pain. I'm personally a fan of a plug-in heating pad, but you can also bring a rice sock and warm it up in the hospital microwave.
Exercise ball - An exercise ball is an excellent alternative spot to sit on in labor. It helps you use gravity, keep your pelvis open wide, and provides a range of movement for rocking and rolling your hips, which can help labor move forward -- and it feels good! Some hospitals have an exercise ball on hand for use in labor, but I always recommend you have and bring your own. The hospital's ball may not be sized correctly for your height, or it may be in use.
Essential oils/favorite scents - Have you ever noticed how you feel when you walk into a home or a store and smell something baking? Whether it's chocolate chip cookies or a fresh baguettes, most of us experience a pleasant sensation and reaction to our favorite smells. You can't bake cookies in your hospital room in labor, but you can bring your favorite scents! Essential oils used in a diffuser (or a few drops on a washcloth), your favorite scented lotion, a room spray -- all of these are ways to make the positive power of smell available to you in labor. Scent is frequently-used tool to increase comfort.
Candy or chocolate - Like smell, our sense of taste also has a strong impact on our brain's reward and pleasure centers. Ever stop and notice the sensation that washes over you -- and how you feel -- when you pop a bite of your favorite food or sweet into your mouth? For most of us, there is a joyful and sensuous feeling associated with pleasurable tastes. It's no wonder, then, that using taste in labor can heighten your sense of pleasure and feelings of comfort! Consider packing for labor hard candy, dark chocolate, a favorite drink, or anything that is easy to consume and is a favorite taste for you. It is particularly helpful if you can suck on something, like hard candy or a lollipop, to allow the taste experience to last longer.
Music/playlist - Music has been shown to affect a person's mood, emotions, ability to concentrate, and sensation of pain. Of course, your choice in music -- which is highly personal and unique to each individual -- matters. Consider creating a playlist or crafting a few favorite channels for use during labor. If your interest in music genres varies, bring a variety of tunes. The music you want to hear early in labor may differ greatly from the music you crave later on.