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Get ready for labor

  • Use a birth plan to make choices about childbirth.
  • Take a childbirth education class.
  • If you’re healthy, wait for labor to begin on its own.
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What to take to the hospital

After a healthy nine months of pregnancy, it's almost time for your baby to arrive. One thing you'll want to do as you get ready for labor is to pack your hospital bag. You'll want to pack something for yourself as well as your new baby.

For yourself
As you pack your hospital bag, you may want to include items for when you're going into labor as well as after you have the baby.

  • Health insurance information
  • A nightgown or big shirt to wear during labor, although a hospital gown will be provided
  • Socks
  • Washcloths and towels
  • Slippers
  • A few nightgowns, pajamas or T-shirts and sweat pants (breastfeeding mothers might find loose-fitting T-shirts or nursing clothes most comfortable)
  • A robe
  • Several pairs of underpants
  • Large, self-adhesive sanitary pads (the ones provided by the hospital may be small and hard to use)
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Hairbrush
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Any other toiletries, cosmetics or hairstyling equipment you want
  • Phone numbers for people you want to call
  • A telephone charge card (you usually can't use a cell phone in a hospital)
  • Clothes to wear home (be sure they are loose fitting)

You may want to bring your birth plan, too. A birth plan is a set of instructions you make about your baby’s birth. Fill out the plan with your partner. Then share it with your provider, your family and other support people. It’s best for everyone to know ahead of time that you plan to breastfeed.

For your baby
Most hospitals provide the basics for newborns during their hospital stay: a knit cap, an undershirt, diapers and blankets. When it comes time to take the baby home, you'll need your own things.

  • A receiving blanket
  • Clothes to wear home, including an undershirt, cap and socks
  • Disposable diapers (most hospitals provide these)
  • Bunting or a warm blanket if it's cold outside
  • A car seat (if baby is to be driven home)

Last reviewed December 2013

Signs of preterm labor

  • Contractions every 10 minutes or more often
  • Change in vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Low, dull backache
  • Cramps that feel like your period
  • Abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a birth plan?

You don't have to have a birth plan. But having one is a great idea! A birth plan is a set of instructions you make about your baby's birth. It tells your provider how you feel about things like who you want with you during labor, what you want to do during labor, if you want drugs to help with labor pain, and if there are special religious or cultural practices you want to have happen once your baby is born. Fill out a birth plan with your partner. Then share it with your provider and with the nurses at the hospital or birthing center where you plan to have your baby. Share it with your family and other support people, too. It's best for everyone to know ahead of time how you want labor and birth to be.

What are Braxton-Hicks contractions?

You may feel Braxton-Hicks contractions starting early in your third trimester. They're usually painless but can be uncomfortable. They are different from true labor contractions. Braxton-Hicks don't come in a regular pattern, and they don't get closer over time. They may stop when you walk, change positions or rest. They may happen more often in the evening, especially if you're dehydrated. They may be weak and stay that way, or there may be a few strong ones followed by weak ones. You usually feel them in the lower abdomen and groin. True labor contractions come in regular intervals, get closer together and steadily stronger, and last 30 to 90 seconds. They don't go away, no matter what you do. The pain usually starts in the back and wraps around to the front. If you're having any kind of contractions and think you might be in labor, call your provider.

Have questions?

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