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The Birth & the Hospital

Your big day is finally here! With so much to do and so little time to do them, we’ve put together some helpful checklists, must-haves and quintessential essentials to make your trip to and from the hospital as smooth as possible.


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Packing For The Hospital: What To Take

Don’t leave home without these little essentials that can make a big difference.

I’m glad I remembered to bring:
"Magazines," says Tia Secor, a mom of one in Salt Lake City, Utah. "I was induced but was in labor for 14 hours, most of it with an epidural. The reading material was great to have in between visits from family members."
I wish I’d remembered to bring: "A hair elastic. I didn't pack anything to keep the hair out of my face during labor, which is funny because I keep hair clips and elastics everywhere at home. Must have been pregnancy brain!"

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "My fluffy bathrobe," says Tracey Blackman, a mom of one in Hartford, Connecticut. "Being in my own robe at the hospital was comforting. And it was nice to look decent with family popping in and taking pictures."
I wish I’d remembered to bring: "Slippers. The hospital socks they give you with the little nubby things are so scratchy, they twist all around on your feet, and are just blah!"

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "My pedicured toes!" says Lisa Bedford, a mom of two in Phoenix, Arizona. "With my first, I’d look at my toes while I was pushing and thinking, ‘Wow, I hope no one notices my feet.’"
I wish I’d remembered to bring: "Dried fruit, a tasty way to get my digestive system to start moving again."

I’m glad I remembered to bring:
"Extremely large underwear. Huge!" says Stephanie Callaway-Sifuentes, a mom of one in Dallas, Texas. "After you give birth you have to wear a gigantic pad, and the hospital’s mesh undies aren’t that fabulous."

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "A sleeping mask, or even a scarf to wrap over my eyes. They tell you to rest once you have the epidural, but all the flashing lights and activity keep you awake."

I’m glad I remembered to bring:
"Wet wipes," says Lauren Mackiel Gory, a mom of two in Little Falls, New Jersey. "I was very sensitive after giving birth, and wipes were way better than toilet paper."

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "My favorite lotion. The hospital soaps and sheets are on the rough side and it can get chilly, both of which dry skin."


I’m glad I remembered to bring: "A pair of comfy pants to go home in," says Desiree Wolfe, a mom of one in Las Vegas, Nevada. "You’re larger than you think you’ll be when you leave the hospital, but I felt fine in soft, elastic-waist pants."

I wish I'd remembered to bring: "An iPod. It would have been a way to deflect family who dropped by to chitchat. I love them, but it was like, Look, I’m in labor here!"


What's in your birth bag?

When prepping for the hospital, some people tend to pack like they're moving to another country. Other people might only bring along their husbands. Either of those extremes is probably not the best idea, so, with that in mind, here are a couple of checklists you might enjoy. Take a look — there might be something we've thought of that could be useful for your big trip.

So — what do you want in your Birth Bag?

The basics: you've probably already thought of these, but...

  • Admission forms/papers
  • Baby name book
  • Camera and/or video camera
  • Film and tapes
  • Cash
  • Phone/phone card
  • Charger for your phone (don't forget this one)
  • Gift for a sibling
  • Health insurance card
  • Pregnancy/birth reference book
  • Birth plan (if you have one)

Additional items to consider for labor:

  • Birth ball
  • Facecloth from home (maybe with a distinct color or pattern, so it doesn't wind up in the hospital laundry)
  • Hot water bottle
  • Lollipops and hard candy (for dry mouth)
  • Lotion and/or powder (for massage)
  • Massage/aromatherapy oils
  • Tennis balls (for back massage)
  • Watch or stopwatch (with a second hand for timing contractions)

Additional items to consider for the comforts of home:

  • Books/magazines
  • Small cooler with drinks and snacks
  • CD/audio player
  • CDs
  • Extra pillow (maybe with a colored pillowcase, so it doesn't get into hospital laundry)

Additional items to consider for your partner:

  • Change of clothes
  • Snacks
  • Reading material

Additional items to consider for after the baby arrives:

  • Address book
  • Baby book
  • Thank you cards/notes
  • Large bag to bring home gifts and hospital supplies
  • Phone number list

Additional items to consider for clothing:

  • Bathrobe
  • Loose, comfortable outfits
  • Nightgown
  • Nursing bras
  • Nursing pads
  • Slippers
  • Thick socks
  • Underwear

Additional items to consider for personal care:

  • Barrettes/hairbands (ponytail holder)
  • Body soap
  • Brush/comb
  • Contact lens case/lens supplies
  • Dental floss
  • Deodorant
  • Earplugs
  • Eyeshade
  • Facial soap
  • Glasses
  • Lip balm/ChapStick
  • Lotion
  • Makeup/cosmetics
  • Maxi-pads
  • Mouthwash/breath mints
  • Prescription medications you're taking
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste

Additional items to consider for the baby:

  • Approved car seat
  • Diapers for the trip home
  • Going-home outfit
  • Hat/cap
  • Receiving blankets


Mom-Approved Hospital Bag Checklist


What to Pack for Dad


Hospital Games


What Makes A Delivery Go Well

See why these women’s birth days went so right—and pick from their tips to help make your own labor less...laborious.

Tune out. "When I delivered my twins, I brought an iPod loaded with my favorite songs, everything from indie rock to Johnny Cash hymns. Best decision ever. It was like bringing my best friends into the delivery room to comfort me like only they knew how."
—Angela Vincent, mom of four, Los Angeles, CA

Take a breather—lots of them. "I took prenatal yoga, and that allowed me to have a very successful delivery. I was skeptical at first but through relaxing and deep breathing I was able to work my way through each contraction without letting the pain make my body too tense to do its job. Using these techniques, I had three labors that were drug- and intervention-free."
—Jackie Kaufenberg, mom of three, Olivia, Minnesota

Cool off quick. "Ask for an ice pack to put in your underwear immediately after delivery to reduce swelling and pain. I didn’t get to use this technique myself because I had a C-section, but I have prescribed it to thousands of patients, and it helps!"
—Dr. Jennifer Gunter, M.D., author of The Preemie Primer

Hit the shower. "I tell everyone I know to take a warm shower during labor. I’ve done it myself through three natural deliveries. It helps you to relax and feels wonderful."
—Katie Bulger, mom of three, Clarksville, Tennessee

Sit up. "After I had an epidural, my nurses adjusted the bed so I was sitting completely upright with my legs down on a little stool. The nurses explained that this would allow gravity to help with the labor. I went from six centimeters to ‘We can see the head’ in about an hour and a half. I guess mom was right when she told me to sit up straight!"
—Mindy Airhart, mom of two, New Orleans, Louisiana

Get to know the team. "The practice I attended made sure to introduce me to everyone on the staff through the course of my pregnancy, down to the nurses. When I arrived for my delivery, the on-call nurse was one that I’d already met. That made it so much easier and more comforting. If your doctor’s office doesn’t do these meet and greets, ask them to."
—Darneisha Calixto, mom of one, Washington D.C.


5 Truths about Labor You May Not Have Heard

Hee-hee-hee…huh? You’ve seen the birth class video and practiced your breathing, but there are still some things about labor that might surprise you (in a good sort of way). Moms deliver the real deal.

1. The best patient advocate is you. "The person administering my epidural just wasn’t getting it right," recalls mom of one Elizabeth Deveney-Frazier of Cohasset, Massachusetts. "I could feel the needle, feel the pressure—all the things they say you aren’t supposed to feel. I spoke up and requested someone else. You can’t worry about being that patient when it’s your well being and your baby’s."

2. You can’t control your baby’s arrival, so relax! "I had this long list of things to get done right up to my due date, and I had it in my mind that I would finish," recalls Marie Alfonso, a mom of one in Brooklyn, New York. "Then my water broke during a staff meeting, which wasn’t part of the plan!" Try to have tasks finished up well before your due date. The more well-rested you are when you go into labor, the better.

3. Labor: the toughest job you’ll ever...sleep through. Contrary to what you may have seen in the movies, labor isn’t all agony, all the time. "After my epidural, I had a completely pain-free labor," says Marina Daly, a mom of one from Tampa, Florida. "The entire process was 10 hours long and I spent it napping and watching the Food Network. The nurses actually had to wake me up when it was time to push."

4. You can always change your mind—and meds. "Both my mother and mother-in-law told me natural childbirth was a beautiful thing, so I gave it a try," says Lorra Brown, a mom of two from Ringwood, New Jersey. "At first I worked through the pain with breathing and relaxation techniques, but hours later, I went for the epidural."

5. Bonding can happen anytime. "After I had a c-section, I couldn’t hold my baby right off and was worried I’d missed my chance to connect with him," says Lynn Whitlock, a mother of two from Minneapolis, Minnesota. "A few hours later the nurses brought him to me, and there was that click. The delay didn’t matter—it was still a great moment."


Cervical Dilation From 1 10: Are You Ready for Delivery?

hospital bed

By Jeanne Sager, Cafe Mom

When you're pregnant, a whole new part of the English language opens up. Suddenly you're obsessed with placentas, trimesters, and sussing out whether you should go with a sonogram or an amniocentesis to determine baby's gender. And then you hit the ninth month of your pregnancy, and a new term pops up: cervical dilation.

It refers to the opening of the cervix, the part of the body that separates the uterus from the vagina, and according to Dr. Robert Atlas, an OB/GYN at Mercy Medical Center in Maryland, dilating is part of the body's way of getting ready for delivery.

"As you get closer to term, the body knows to start contracting and opening of the cervix begins," he explains.

Moms have the option of whether or not they allow their practitioner to check whether or not you're dilating -- a process done by putting the hand up the vagina and feeling the cervix to determine whether it has begun to open.

If you allow it, your doctor or midwife will describe a dilated cervix with a series of numbers.

But what do those numbers mean? Dr. Atlas breaks dilation down -- from 0 to 10 centimeters:

O -- Your cervix is closed. This is how it will stay for most of your pregnancy as the cervix separates the uterus from the vaginal opening and protects the baby from infection, Dr. Atlas explains.

1 centimeter dilated -- Start packing that hospital bag, you're on your way to labor land! Doctors measure dilation in centimeters, and 1 centimeter is a "good sign," says Dr. Atlas. It means your body is getting ready for delivery. It doesn't, however, mean that you're going to deliver immediately.

A mom can walk around for weeks at 1 centimeter dilated, Dr. Atlas says, or she can go from 0 centimeters dilated to having a baby in a day. "Every patient is different," he explains. "And if this your first pregnancy, it takes longer to go through the early stages of labor."

Up to 5 centimeters with contractions -- Put contractions and dilation under 5 centimeters together, and you've got what's called "latent labor" or "early labor." That means your uterus is readying for delivery, but again, Dr. Atlas says, when you'll deliver really depends.

He relates the story of one mom who began contracting every 3 minutes when she was just 33 weeks pregnant. She continued like that for weeks before actually giving birth!

The good news is contractions at this stage are typically mild to moderate (think Braxton Hicks), and your body is doing something. Typically your cervix is not only opening but softening and lengthening, making it easier for baby to make the trip from your uterus to your vagina and out into the world.

5 to 6 centimeters -- The doctor will see you now! This is the point when "active labor" begins, and typically your dilation will be much quicker after you hit the 5 to 6 centimeter point. Contractions will also likely pick up and become more painful as the cervix works its way toward full opening.

10 centimeters -- Considered fully open, this is the point when moms are considered "ready to push" by OB/GYNs. You may also hear your practitioner say you're "fully effaced," which means the cervix has also elongated to let baby out into the world.

At the end of the day, dilation numbers are good for Moms to know, but Dr. Atlas warns mothers not to get too caught up on finding out how dilated they are or aren't.

"You may have lots of contracting and not dilate. You may NOT have a lot of contractions and be dilating," he says. "Certainly people can go from closed to delivery in a short amount of time!"

Did you start dilating well before delivery? How long did it take?


How to Have a Successful Vaginal Birth After a CSection

By Nicole Fabian-Weber, Cafe Mom

For decades, pregnant women lived by the principle that once they gave birth via cesarean, that's how all subsequent deliveries had to be. This school of thought was due to the restrictions the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) put on the practice in the '90s, which caused many hospitals to refuse natural labors for women who already underwent C-sections. But, thankfully, in 2010, the ACOG became more lax with its restrictions, giving women more opportunities to attempt vaginal births after C-section, or VBACs.

There are many reasons pregnant women find VBACs to be an attractive option. With vaginal births, there are shorter hospital stays, quicker recoveries, and less blood loss involved in the delivery process. And the good news? According to the American Pregnancy Association, about 90 percent of women who have undergone cesarean deliveries are candidates for VBACs, and in most studies, roughly 3 to 4 out of 5 women who have previously undergone cesarean birth can successfully give birth vaginally.

Thinking of attempting a VBAC? Here are 5 ways to put the odds in your favor.

Monitor your weight. Many patients end up with a C-section because they gained more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy (between 25 to 35 pounds) and had bigger babies. The bigger the baby, the higher risk for a C-section. Exercising and being mindful of what you eat can allow for a smaller baby and a higher chance for a vaginal delivery. Daniel Roshan, MD, a maternal fetal medicine specialist in New York City with a high VBAC success rate, suggests running and swimming for his pregnant patients attempting VBACs. "This allows for a stronger body, better abdominal muscle tone, and pushing power," he notes. "It also decreases the risk of developing gestational diabetes, which leads to bigger babies."

Try evening primrose oil. It's important you talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, but Dr. Roshan gives his patients evening primrose oil starting at 34 weeks. "This makes the cervix much softer and more amenable to dilation when the labor starts," he says. "Many patients have C-sections because their cervix does not dilate."

Avoid inducing labor. "Using medication to induce labor (Pitocin) increases the risk of uterine rupture, and the best is to avoid it or use it very carefully," states Dr. Roshan. "Induction is not a natural process. The uterus, pelvis, and baby are not ready for labor, and this by itself increases the risk of cesarean. If there is no clear need to induce, it is best is to wait for spontaneous labor, which allows the baby to be in a better position, and the body is more ready for giving birth."

Wait between pregnancies. Many doctors will recommend you avoid getting pregnant for 18 months after a C-section to increase the odds of a successful VBAC. The reason? The interval between pregnancies can help the uterus to heal, and the scar of the C-section will be stronger, so the likelihood of it separating during pregnancy or labor is decreased. "Twelve to 18 months is recommended in between pregnancies for VBAC patients," suggests Dr. Roshan. "Unless the patient is of an age where she might not be able to get pregnant easily, then a shorter interval is allowed. However, the recommendation is to do a repeat C-section in such a case."

Choose your caregiver wisely. After you've made the decision to try to have a VBAC, you should do your homework. Typically, midwives have lower rates of cesarean sections (though you may want to seek out a midwife who delivers at a hospital in the case that you do need a C-section). If you're not comfortable giving birth with a midwife, look for a doctor/hospital with a low cesarean section/high VBAC rate, and be sure to discuss your intentions with your practitioner before you go into labor. You want someone who is up on the latest studies; preferably who doesn't view VBACs as "high risk"; and of course, who is on the same page as you.

What are you doing to prepare for your delivery?

Image: Getty Images


5 Myths and Realities About Epidurals

replace coffee pregnant

By Michele Zipp, Cafe Mom

Almost from the second you're pregnant, one of your biggest questions is: How is this baby going to get out of me?! Of course, you know the answer, but what you're really worried about is the pain of childbirth. After all, a newborn's head is usually bigger than the size of a grapefruit.

One of the most common ways of dealing with pain the delivery room is the epidural -- at least 60 percent of American moms are choosing this form of pain management. Lots of them joke about it after: "The epidural was my best friend!" But deciding whether or not it's for you is a big decision. Many moms struggle with the idea that getting an epidural makes them a "wimp" (it doesn't), and more importantly they want to know whether getting an epidural is safe for them -- and their baby.

There are a lot of common myths about epidurals, and here, we address them, and give you the facts you need to help make your decision.

We asked Paloma Toledo, M.D., Obstetric physician anesthesiologist and Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, to address the most common misconceptions about epidurals during labor. Here, the facts you need.

Myth 1: Epidurals can cause permanent back pain or paralysis in the mother.
Serious complications from an epidural, including paralysis, are extremely rare. Some women have discomfort in the lower back (where the catheter was inserted) for a few hours or days after the epidural, but it doesn't last.    

Myth 2: Epidurals can harm the baby.
Fact: In Dr. Toledo's study, published last year in the International Journal of Obstetric Anesthesia, women expressed concern that an epidural could cause cerebral palsy or be harmful to the baby -- no evidence or research corroborates these concerns. Additionally, the amount of medication that reaches the baby from the epidural is so small it doesn't cause harm.    

More From The Stir: Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Epidurals But Were Afraid to Ask

Myth 3: Epidurals can slow down labor -- or increase the risk of having a C-section.
Fact: There is no credible evidence that an epidural slows down labor or increases your risk of having a c-section. If a woman has a C-section, other factors usually are at play. In fact, there is evidence that epidurals can speed the first stage of labor for some women.  

Myth 4: An epidural interferes with the birth experience.
Some women express fear that their legs will be numb and they won't be able to walk, feel a contraction or push properly. In fact, your legs should not be so numb that you do not feel them. You may be able to walk after an epidural, depending on the hospital's policy; however, walking generally is not recommended immediately after the epidural is placed. Epidural procedures have improved significantly in the last 20 years, and you'll receive enough medication to relieve the pain without taking away your ability to move. Furthermore, the epidural medications will not cause you to be groggy or tired. In other words, you'll be able to feel contractions -- they just won't hurt -- and you'll be able to push effectively.    

More from The Stir: 8 Natural Ways Women Can Manage Pain During Labor

Myth 5: There's a limited window of time when you can get an epidural.
Fact: You can get an epidural any time you are in labor -- in the beginning, the middle or even toward the end.     

There are many ways to have the best birth, and that answer is unique to each woman and baby being born. The key is to do your research and prepare yourself with knowledge so you have options. If an epidural isn't for you, there are many other ways to manage pain during labor and delivery. And once you're holding that bundle of joy in your arms, you'll forget all about the pain anyway -- or so they say.

Are you considering an epidural? What's your biggest concern? (If you've had one, please share your experience.)

Image: Getty Images

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