What Should I Put in My Hospital Bag When I Go to Give Birth?

One of the most common questions we see on social media pregnancy groups is, “What should I put in my hospital bag when I go to have my baby?” Even mothers who have given birth before often ask what should go into their hospital bag, saying they just can’t remember what they found useful.

I’m going to tell you about some real essentials that you might want to consider putting into your hospital bag when you go to give birth which are unlikely to be on any of the lists you’ll see online – and yet this list has items which may shorten your labour, reduce your need for drugs in labour and also reduce the chance of you having interventions in your birth! How can that be possible? It sounds like magic but in fact it’s all about supporting your body’s own ability to give birth beautifully, strongly and efficiently. To do that you need loads of a hormone called oxytocin, and this hospital bag essentials list includes items which will help your oxytocin to flow.

Oxytocin is one of the most important hormones for birth. It’s called the hormone of love, and it’s made in your brain and other parts of your body and released into your bloodstream during birth.

A good flow of oxytocin helps the body to labour really well, and a lack of it can stop labour, or slow it down. Natural oxytocin (unlike the synthetic oxytocin often used to induce labour) triggers endorphins – the body’s own painkillers – and reduces the need for drugs in labour. It also keeps the uterus contracting strongly and evenly for a shorter, easier labour. Fortunately, we can help our oxytocin to flow if we know how to – and here’s where that hospital bag list comes in!

As well as those teeny tiny nappies, gorgeous babygrows and, of course, the car seat, here’s the All Things Antenatal hospital birth bag list! Supporting your oxytocin flow means thinking about all of your senses. Oxytocin loves you to be calm, relaxed and loved. It dislikes you being scared and feeling alone. It is triggered by all five of your senses, so let’s go through each of them one by one. What will relax you, what will calm you and what will make you feel at home, comfortable and loved?


What can you see? How can you make the space look like your own? Consider packing photos of your loved ones, places that make you happy, or some beautiful birth affirmations. Oxytocin likes low light levels so you might want to ask for the room lights to be dimmed, and if you like candles maybe bring in some LED tea lights (regular candles will not be permitted), or battery powered fairy lights. You’re unlikely to be able to bring anything you need to plug in to the mains. What do you like to look at that makes you happy? Whatever it is, that would be a great thing to pack in your hospital bag.


Smell is an extremely powerful trigger for oxytocin. Bringing your own pillow in from home with the same pillow case you have used for a few days (not a freshly washed one) will allow you to bury your face in it and feel like you’re at home, in your own safe space. Remember – just because it’s a pillow doesn’t mean you need to be on the bed. You can stand, squat, lean over the bed or anywhere in the room and still have your pillow to sink into.

Some hospitals offer aromatherapy diffusors and essential oils, but you can bring your own if you wish (as long as it’s battery powered), or some essential oils you love to smell on a piece of cloth.


The sounds of a hospital are generally a little unnerving. Machines that go bleep, people walking around and sometimes the sounds of other women giving birth. Oxytocin flows best when you feel safe and calm and for some women blocking out those noises can help. So, think about whether you might like to have some ear plugs (these are often essential for the postnatal ward anyway) and also some music, either over headphones or with a portable music player (again, batter powered as most hospitals can’t allow untested electrical equipment to be plugged in). Many women are discovering the power of hypnobirthing, and in this case you will need something to play your hypnobirthing tracks on – your phone might be fine for this.


Many women love being touched in labour, and some hate it. You will probably not know what’s right for you until you begin to have your baby, and it’s absolutely fine to tell people what you do or don’t want in the moment (and this might change from moment to moment). Consider packing a light oil such as sweet almond oil to help your birth attendants to massage you with it if you wish. Loving touch can trigger oxytocin which can reduce the sensation of pain, as well as help labour along, and deeper massage or counter-pressure can be a powerful pain reliever.


It used to be that women were discouraged from eating in labour, but we now recognise the importance of keeping the body’s energy levels high enough for the job in hand. While the sense of taste, unlike the other senses, is less connected to oxytocin production, nurturing foods that you love will help you to feel comfortable and cared for, which itself is helpful, as well as giving your body much-needed energy. Consider bringing in foods that you can take a quick, easy bite from that taste delicious. Maybe your favourite cereal bar or some yummy chocolate, anything that you can quickly chew and swallow as you’ll not have much time between contractions to do so. Delicious drinks are also a good way to boost energy and comfort – and a straw means you can take fast sips in a controlled way.

I hope that this has given you some ideas to help you to think about your hospital bag in a slightly different way. What you pack can go a long way towards achieving a positive birth!

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