What To Pack In Your Hospital Bag For A Planned C-Section
Advice from medical professionals and people who've been through it.
While your hospital needs won’t change drastically if you have a C-section instead of a vaginal birth, odds are you will be there longer. Here’s what healthcare workers and moms who have been there recommend you pack in your hospital bag for a C-section.
Some are must-haves, while others might be best to think of as mere suggestions. If you’re not sure how to decide, Dr. Mya Zapata, an OB-GYN at UCLA Health, suggests using your five senses as a framework to help you pack: Which senses are most important to you? If scent is a big deal, for example, bring a favorite hand cream or an essential oil. If you never use those things at home, though, then skip that advice. Maybe you’re a sound person instead, and you’re better off spending your time putting together a couple of really great playlists.
“You know yourself best,” Zapata says. “Rather than checking off exact things on a list, know what’s important to you and what’s going to make you feel calm, comfortable, safe, and refreshed.”
A phone charger with a really long cord
If you remember to pack a charger with a 10-foot cord, you’ve already won. Make sure you also have a way to take pictures of your baby and that your partner brings your phone or camera into the operating room.
A belly support band
After surgery, many hospitals will give C-section patients a belly band, a compression belt that circles the abdomen and may aid in recovery and help alleviate pain (that’s according to some, though certainly not all, studies on the subject). If you’d rather purchase your own — “not a must, but if you have one, that’s great,” Zapata says — bring it, and start wearing it after the C-section.
Sugar-free gum (and a snack)
Random, but certified childbirth educator Mindy Cockeram suggests that parents-to-be pack Xylitol-based chewing gum or mints in their bags (she recommends Mentos Pure Fresh Sugar-Free Chewing Gum or Purely Trident Peppermint Sugar-Free Gum). Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, can help stimulate your first BM after surgery — it’s been shown in studies to stimulate intestinal function and appetite, both of which Cockeram says can be slow after a C-section. (Some hospitals may also give you a stool softener immediately after surgery to help with constipation.)
It doesn’t hurt to bring a small supply of your favorite snack, too.
It’s not a necessity, but if you know you love your own pillow and it’ll help you feel more at home, don’t leave it behind. “Hospital pillows are not super comfortable or breathable, so bringing your own might help you sleep better,” says Dr. Shane Wasden, director of labor and delivery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
An eye mask and ear plugs
Hospital rooms never get completely dark or silent, and in some parts of the country, you might be in a shared room. If you’re someone who need to be able to block everything out when you sleep, having a mask and ear plugs might be helpful for the odd stretch of sleep you might be able to get here and there.
Carissa Ray, a digital media producer in Cincinnati, was grateful she’d thought to pack a headband to keep her hair out of her face while she was on the operating table — more specifically, she says, make sure it’s “a stretchy one that doesn’t hurt your head. That was key.”
Your favorite lip balm
In addition to the basic toiletries, make sure you have lip balm, as hospital air tends to be dry, Zapata says. “Everyone’s lips get really dry, so some lip balm is really helpful,” she says. “That’s at the top of my list.”
Soft pants are a must, of course, and Tyrese Coleman, an attorney and writer in Maryland who had an emergency C-section eight years ago, remembers that a maternity nightgown was also nice to have. “I didn’t really do a ton of breastfeeding, but it was nice to have a loose-fitting nightgown, especially over my nipples, which were still very tender,” Coleman says. The garment got bonus points for its construction: “A lot of the maternity nightwear have the underboob seams that lift your breast a little bit but aren’t tight,” she says, “so it’s easy to move but you’re also not just walking around loosey goosey everywhere.”
If a nightgown with a built-in bra isn’t for you, look for a very loose nursing or sleeping bra that you can wear as you’re just getting the hang of feeding your baby. Breast pads are also good to have.
Another solid lounging option, of course, is a comfy robe. “You’re in a hospital, there’s people around,” Coleman says, which makes a robe the perfect item for the moments when “you want to leave your room but you also don’t want to put on clothes.” Wearing something other than the hospital gown will help you feel more put-together. “I had some nice nursing nightgowns that my mom had bought that were soft cotton, plus some matching robes,” says Ray. “So that was nice to have, to feel like a human being.”
Most hospitals will give you grippy socks to wear in your room, but you might also want to bring slippers or a pair of flip-flops for when you shower or walk around, Zapata says.
For the C-section birth of her second daughter, Ray brought a pair of slipper socks that looked like sneakers. “They looked like black and white Chuck Taylors, but they’re socks,” she says. “Honestly, every nurse that came in ended up commenting on them and had this really human moment with me, which was nice because it can be really clinical otherwise.”
A speaker (and a good playlist)
The idea that music can help put you at ease is both common sense and, increasingly, scientifically sound, too. Zapata suggests bringing a small Bluetooth speaker so you can listen to music in your hospital room; likewise, Wasden recommends asking the medical staff if you can play music in the operating room during the surgery itself.
In retrospect, Ray wishes she’d had a playlist ready for her first C-section. “If you have a preference,” she says, “get that sh*t on lock beforehand, so you can just hand your phone to your partner or anesthesiologist.”
The hospital stay for a C-section can last from two nights to, in some cases, almost a week. “At some point in the middle of the night, you’re going to want to take your mind off things,” says Coleman. If you can’t muster the energy for a Netflix binge, don’t rule out an audiobook. Coleman clearly recalls binge-listening to Outlander, a successful diversion during her hospital stay.
Anything that’ll calm you down during a potentially nerve-wracking surgery can come in handy, says Jessica Diggs, a midwife, doula, and education lead at the reproductive health digital platform Loom. She says some people chew on a mouth guard during the procedure to reduce tension and some smell calming essential oils, like lavender, on a cotton ball. (Ask your partner to hold it below your nose and inhale it with a deep breath.) Again: You know yourself best. Follow your instincts, and do what you know works for you. The idea is to arm yourself with any creature comforts that help you feel soothed and like yourself during a time of big change!