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Preparing for labour
 
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Comfort aids for labour

When you're gathering together all the things you'll need for the birth, think about any items that will make your labour a more comfortable experience. It's best to get your comfort aids ready in advance. That way you won't forget anything in the excitement when labour starts, and you won't be caught unprepared if your labour starts sooner than you expect.

Comfort items you'll find helpful

Comfort in labour
© DK

Your midwife or hospital attendants will suggest things you might find helpful during labour. If you're having a home birth, keep all your comfort aids together in the room where you're going to give birth. If you're having a hospital birth, pack them in a bag, and put it next to your case. Make sure your birth assistant knows where they are, and doesn't forget them at the last minute.

Keeping warm

During the later stages of labour, and particularly immediately after the birth, some women begin to shake quite visibly with cold. Have some warm clothes and leg warmers or thick socks ready in case this happens to you.

Keeping cool

If you want something wet and cool in your mouth but you don't want a drink, try sucking an ice cube or crushed ice. Most hospitals will now provide ice. Alternatively, moisten your lips and mouth by sucking on a small natural sponge that's been dipped in cold water. If you feel hot and sweaty, ask your partner to bathe your face with a cool face cloth and create a refreshing breeze with a hand-held fan.

General comfort

If your hair is long or falls in your face, tie it back with hair grips, slides, or a hairband so that it doesn't irritate you. Your lips are likely to become dry because of breathing through your mouth, so include a lipsalve or chapstick to stop them cracking.

If you feel nauseous and actually vomit, you'll feel much better if you can clean your teeth, so don't forget to take your toothbrush and some toothpaste. A box of tissues may come in handy, as may some scented wipes in single packs that can be opened when needed and used to cleanse your face, neck, and hands. For freshening up you may want to splash on some eau de cologne.

Distractions during labour

Many women find that massage soothes the discomfort of labour. Your partner can provide counterpressure with his hands, a spinal roll, or even a tennis ball or rolling pin! Use a small amount of talcum powder or vegetable-based massage oil to stop your skin from being dragged or pinched. A hot water bottle or a hot pad placed in the small of your back can act as a compress to soothe backache. In the early stages before labour really gets going, you might feel that nothing much happens for long periods. You might find it helpful to distract yourself with books and magazines or even some playing cards and board games.

Your checklist

  • Food and drink
  • Spinal roll or tennis ball
  • Massage oil or talcum powder
  • Hot water bottle
  • Books, magazines, cards, games
  • Some favourite music
  • Small natural sponge
  • Face cloth and hand-held fan
  • Warm clothes and thick socks
  • Hair clips, slides, or hairband
  • Lipsalve or chapstick
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Box of tissues or wet wipes
  • Eau de cologne

Drinks and food

It's important to save your energy during the first stage, in case you have a long and tiring labour.

Many hospitals suggest that you don't eat anything during labour in case there's an unexpected emergency and you need a general anaesthetic. Take glucose sweets to suck, and high-energy isotonic sports drinks to help you keep up your energy levels. Your partner will also need food so he should make himself a snack to take - perhaps sandwiches and fruit and a flask of coffee.

Take something for you to have later as well - you'll probably be ravenous after the birth and you'll want something to eat right away.

You'll also need plenty to drink - a bottle or vacuum flask of diluted unsweetened fruit juice or cold water is ideal.

Your birth partner's comfort aids

  • a pack of wipes for freshening face and hands
  • snacks and drinks
  • change of clothing
  • camera, or video camera if that's allowed
  • telephone numbers of family and friends, and coins or phone card - generally, you can't use mobile phones in hospital.

Posted 16.11.2010

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