Sunday, April 27, 2014

Holistic Hospital Bag: Packing for a Natural Birth

Natural birth is something that is slowly making a comeback into modern medicine but still raises a lot of questions and concerns from those who are either interested or intimated by the process. I hope this post serves to help Natural Mama's prepare for D-Day.

 I always knew I would want a natural birth for my labor and I was so confident of that choice that we chose to have our first son at a wonderful birth center in Denton. I figured going out of hospital was my best shot as a first time mom to truly have the labor I envisioned. While my labor was exactly what I expected it to be, I did run into some complications like having a precipitous labor, an episiotomy, a significant postpartum hemorrhage and a long recovery as a result of those factors. I'm absolutely confident that I would have experienced those complications in a hospital setting {I mean, I was dilated to 2cm for the past 5 weeks of my pregnancy and delivered a 9lb 2 oz baby at 39 weeks in under 6 hours...things were going to happen}. The difference is that instead of being pumped full of drugs, bullied into a c-section or kept in a hospital for days after my labor, I was allowed to let my body do its thing and take my baby home hours after he was born. Eli was born into peace and we are so thankful for our experience.

That being said, an out of hospital birth carries some significant risks to ease and access to emergency intervention and given my particular history of having big babies quickly, the best place for me to have our second son is in a hospital. Now that I have the confidence of a natural delivery under my belt, I feel much more equipped to face a hospital setting and I've learned a few valuable things along the way. So here's my list of "must haves" for a holistic hospital bag {birth centers and home births can get in on this action too}.

A HUGE water bottle with a straw {I'll be sipping coconut water}
A collection of sized cosmetic bags to hold oils and remedies
An aquarium net {mostly for home/birth center water births}
Stool softener
Panties at least 4 times larger than pre-pregnancy size
Adult diapers
Essential oils {Clary Sage, Calming blend, Peppermint}
Red Raspberry leaf tea {taken daily leading up to labor}
Crock Pot and washcloths
Peri bottle
Sitz spray
Tucks medicated pads
Arnica gel & oil
Massage tools
Yoga Ball
Breast Pump
Mama Chia squeezes

Proper hydration is absolutely essential during labor and unfortunately, many OBGYN's still insist that laboring women only ingest ice chips throughout labor. This infuriates me to no end in a natural labor setting. While I absolutely agree that an empty stomach is the safest approach to decrease surgical risks: a natural Mama is not a likely candidate for a c-section. Yes, emergencies happen and yes, you should follow your Doctor's advice over mine when it comes to the specifics of your care and your labor but for me, I need the hydration and my Doc is a-okay with me drinking water and liquid nutrition throughout my labor. In addition to helping you have the energy to push that baby out, you'll also be replacing all those fluids you are going to lose in the process of delivery. Since I will labor without an IV, I need the fluid and as I have a history of postpartum hemorrhaging and a desire to breast feed, it's absolutely essential that I stay hydrated. I'll be drinking coconut water to give myself the extra electrolyte boost but plain Jane water works wonders too and Mama Chia squeezes are delicious and easy on the tummy so I'll be taking plenty of those too.

As far as how to store stuff: I used clear bags to stash my gear instead of cosmetic bags during my last labor but in hindsight, it would have been easier for to me shout "bring me the medium bag" instead of trying to direct someone into seeing the product I needed. Especially if that "someone" is a frantic husband who is just doing his best not to freak out while watching you go through the most excruciating ordeal of your life. Natural labor hurts like hell but feeling absolutely helpless while someone you love goes through hell ain't easy either. Husbands need some props!

I've dedicated a large portion of my bag to "bottom relief" and most of those things are self explanatory. You'll need adult sized diapers, your adult sized diapers will require Granny panties, your sore tush will appreciate the cooling relief of Tucks pads and that peri bottle will be your best friend when the time comes for your first postpartum restroom experience {pee stings}. The stool softener is one of the first things you should take after having that precious bundle so that it doesn't feel like you're delivering a second baby when that first potty break comes and the aquarium net is for floaters in a water birth scenario. The sitz spray is absolutely required. I'll be going home same day and with a toddler running around and a newborn there is just no way I'm going to have the time to follow the sitz bath after every potty break protocol. Heck, as a first time mom I didn't have the time or energy to do that {Hello, episiotomy! Who the heck can climb into a tub?!}.

As far as helping labor along naturally: the breast pump will do wonders at both stimulating stalled contractions and dilating the cervix. I highly recommend bouncing on a yoga ball to help that baby drop down into position and if you still need some extra help, essential oils pack a powerful punch. Peppermint and Clary Sage will increase contractions and that Red Raspberry leaf tea will have done its job toning your uterus to prepare for the BIG push. I've also included some calming oils and a few massage tools to help with back pain and to relieve anxiety.

Doula Stephanie recommend a crock pot filled with washcloths and lavender oil for pain relief so I'll be bringing those along too. The Arnica gel is one of my favorite remedies currently for back and leg cramps and come delivery day it will help ease the pain of contractions too. I'll also be taking some Arnica oil for perineum massage because I don't want an episitotomy repeat and it will also come in handy for addressing those meconium baby poops later on {a little dab on baby's bum after each diaper change and those tarry poops slide right off}.

So that my friends is "What's in my Holistic Hospital Bag". Natural labor hurts  but it's one of the most empowering and rewarding care directives you can give yourself. You won't be pumped full of chemicals that can inhibit a healthful hormone cascade or increase the likelihood of interventions, you'll be mentally present during the process and physically connected to the wonderful work your body is doing to bring that sweet baby into the world. Natural labor is my jam but don't beat yourself up if a natural labor isn't in the cards for you either by choice or by circumstance. At the end of the day, we want healthy Mamas and babies and sometimes that doesn't always include a natural labor. Prayers and peace peeps!

Pin It!


  1. Great post Vanessa! Where do you get the Arnica gel/oil, and the Sitz Spray? I'm expecting my first at the end of August, and have been feverishly trying to prepare. Thank you!!

    1. Hi there! Thank you and congratulations on the impending arrival of your little one. Being pregnant in the summer is no easy feat! I purchased both products from Amazon. Best of luck to you!


I'd love to hear your thoughts, thanks for reading!