A Facebook group that I am an Admin for has ‘Lives’ on pregnancy and birth topics every Monday evening (click HERE for details of the group!). Last Monday, I was the host and I went through what I take to a birth in the hope of sharing some pro tips with the mums in the group and hope that they find something that they might not have thought of - maybe even just that little thing that gets them through their labour more comfortably! It was a fun video, I covered the items in no particular order, just pocket by pocket as I found them in my bag, and below is a summary of what I covered.....
Of course not everything works for everyone, so take what is useful for you and ignore the rest, x
So first of all, what kind of bag do I take? Funnily enough, I take a nappy bag with me! It's a great size, has plenty of pockets and is wipeable in case of anything spilling in or on it. The longer I've been a doula, the less I take, there are a few 'props' for labour in the bag but what I use most during labour come with me everywhere I go - my hands! I use a lot of massage, counterpressure and hip squeezes.
Massage tools - staying relaxed and comfortable is amazing for labour and here's a variety of tools I use to help with that. I take a small bottle of organic, cold pressed olive oil in a small sauce bottle from a dollar store, depending on the labour I might add a few drops of essential oil when massaging. Head massagers are lovely (as long as mum enjoys them!) for reducing anxiety in a labouring mum, this is often used earlier in labour to keep mum present. Massage roller ball, this can be useful when the support partner's hands are getting tired and mum is still wanting strong counter pressure or deep massage, my preference is to use my hands as it makes the work more connecting/intuitive but it's a great back up. The blue 'knobbly' ball is called a reaction ball and I use it when my hands are tired to maintain good pressure on acupressure points during labour. It can also be a great tool for the partner to use, I find they're more confident using them than finding the acupressure points with just their hands.
The atmosphere in the room. Whether at home or hospital you can control of the atmosphere in the room. Some items I bring to help with this are lighting options, essential oils and tissues. Battery operated candles and strings of fairy lights are great options to help make the room feel warm and safe. Using essential oils can also alter the atmosphere in the room, as well as support any physical or emotional changes you're experiencing. But I'm not a fan of using diffusers in case a change in scent is needed, if it's being diffused through the room then making a change is hard. That's where my tissues come in! Instead of using a diffuser I pop a few drops of the oil onto some tissues and place them around my labouring client. That way, when we want to change or remove the oil I just take the tissues away and clear the room - much easier!
Keeping cool and comfortable! Your body works hard during labour and that can make you feel hot! I bring a spray bottle, a face washer and a fan to cool my mums down. I prefer a manual fan to a battery operated one, mostly because they're quieter and more adjustable. The green pad is a dollar store gardening mat and these are invaluable if you want to labour on your knees. A yoga mat is helpful but these mats are thicker, will keep you much more comfortable and in the position you choose for longer.
Why do I bring combs to a birth? Well, it's not to do my hair! It actually has to do with something called the Gateway Theory of Pain and we use the combs to distract your brain away from how you're experiencing your contractions. I get my mums to grip the comb in their hand as hard as they'd like to with the teeth of the comb along the base of their fingers. This sensation will get to your brain more quickly than your contraction and so you'll experience less of the contraction and hopefully progress a little further. I bring these out quite late in labour as they can't be used for too long (you'll get a sore hand!) but they can be really useful when you feel like you're running out of options.
Sticky tape and bluetac - I encourage my clients to bring affirmations and visualisations with them and we stick them up around their birthing space (whether at home or at hospital). The bluetac can also double up as a bath plug if one is missing from the hospital bathroom.
Rebozos, these are birthing shawls traditionally used in Mexico. I love these so much I bring 2 of them with me! I'm a huge fan of Spinning Babies and encourage everyone to take a look at their website. Getting baby into the best position before birth makes for an easier pregnancy and labour and I do a lot of work with my clients during our antenatal appointments to help this to happen. But these are also really effective during labour for getting into comfortable birthing positions as well as encouraging baby to progress through to birth in the most efficient way.
Heat packs and a sarong. I use heatpacks at almost all the labours I attend, most women love how comforting and effective they are at relieving discomfort. But they can inhibit your movement if you have to hold them in place. So, after a pack has been heated up, I wrap it in a sarong, place it wherever my mum finds it most comforting and then use the sarong to tie it on and so freeing up her hands and her ability to labour as actively as she wants to.
So, along with these items I also bring a change of clothes, some food (including my homemade trail mix!), water and coffee and some Rescue Remedy and Vitamin B melts for energy. I hope these items/tips are useful to some labouring women and their support partners, we can all learn things from each other, I learn all the time!