If you're booked in for surgery then you'll need to pack a C-Section hospital bag, but what on earth do you put in it?
Knowing what to get together for your C-Section hospital bag, particularly if this is your first baby, is tough. No two births are alike, even the seemingly routine C-Section, so your section hospital bag will need to cover all eventualities, some of which you may not even have considered could be a possibility.
While a planned birth can make thing undoubtedly easier, do remember that things can still change, so it's wise to always pack more than you need. Space is usually limited on postnatal wards and your caesarean hospital bag may need to be split in two – one to keep on the ward, and one to keep in the car/with your birth partner. And remember you're not only packing for the surgery but for the days post-birth. Check out our blog on nappy sizes to check you have the right supplies for your newborn. You can also find more ideas for what you may need after the birth here.
Here's our ultimate hospital bag C-Section packing list, from someone who's already been there.
What To Bring For Before The Birth
Once you leave home you're at the mercy of the surgery waiting list. Here's what you'll need to pass the time comfortably:
Dressing Gown: Waiting for surgery can mean a lot of hanging around. You may be more comfortable in a pair of pyjamas, especially when it comes to doctors and nurses monitoring you. Pack a gown in case you feel cool and want another layer.
Books, Magazines, Audiobooks: You'll be admitted early and your time slot may not be until the end of the day. Be well prepared with plenty to keep you occupied.
iPod: Listening to music can help you relax if you're feeling anxious about your section. Hospital waiting rooms can also be noisy so this will help you keep calm in the run-up.
Hospital Notes: It's also worth bringing any pamphlets on breastfeeding too.
Handheld Fan: Heavily pregnant women tend to feel hotter than most, so a small fan will help keep you comfortable.
What To Bring For Your Birth Partner
Of course let them pack for themselves, but do remind them to bring:
Phone Charger: Don't let a dead battery stop your birth partner announcing the new arrival!
List Of People To Call: Give them a list of names and numbers of people you'd like them to notify about the birth and agree in advance who will be called first.
Your Birth Plan: Even if you know you're having a C-Section you can still have some say in the birth, such as if the screen is lowered so you can see your new baby arriving, skin-to-skin contact or if you want delayed cord clamping. Trust your list of requirements to your birth partner so it's one less thing for you to worry about.
Ample Snacks And Drinks: While a C-Section is relatively quick there's plenty of waiting around in the run-up to surgery and if your birth partner is hungry or thirsty they won't be able to support you as you need.
Camera: This is no time to attempt a selfie! Ensure they have a fully charged camera at the ready.
What To Pack For After The Birth
Your C-Section hospital bag will come into its own after the birth, so make sure you're prepared with all the things that will make the next few days more bearable:
Lip Balm And Moisturiser: You may find your lips and skin are drier in the hospital environment so it's a good idea to have some with you to keep skin comfortable.
Maternity Pads: You'll definitely still need maternity pads even if you don't have a vaginal birth. Soon after the birth you'll experience bleeding so pack plenty, as you may be in the hospital for several days. Immediately after the birth, you may find some comfort by folding a pad in half lengthways and placing over your scar held in place by your knickers.
High-Waisted Knickers: The last thing you'll want is your knickers rubbing on your new scar so pack underwear that won't irritate your wound and can be pulled up high.
Slip-On Shoes: Whether you opt for slippers, sliders or pumps, pack a pair of shoes that you can slip into easily without having to bend down.
Peppermint Teabags: Post-surgery you may suffer from trapped wind, but sipping on this tea can help relieve it.
Mints: After the surgery, you'll feel delicate and won't be up and about as normal. Slip a pack of mints in your bag so you can freshen up your mouth when needed.
Face Wipes: Your usual skincare routine may go out of the window for a few days, especially if you're confined to a bed. Pack some wipes to help keep you feeling fresh.
Front Opening, Short-Sleeved Nightshirt: You'll want something comfortable to change into as soon as you can. Short sleeves will make it easier for nurses to do their checks and if you need a drip. And the front opening will make breastfeeding with minimal movement for you much easier. You'll still have a catheter in after the birth so a nightshirt will make this easier and means you can change out of your hospital gown when you're ready. Dark colours are best to hide any stains.
Loose-Fitting Clothes: As you start to feel better you may want to get dressed in your own clothes. Opt for loose-fitting things that are easy to pull on. Leggings, maternity trousers, t-shirts, long dresses, sarongs and so on. You don't want your going home outfit to be the same pair of PJs you've been wearing for days. Plan for comfort, especially if you'll be sitting in the car.
A Straw: Take your own eco-friendly straw. C-Section hospital environments can be drying, but in the first hours after birth, you may struggle to sit up fully to drink. A straw will help ensure you don't become dehydrated.
Hand Sanitiser: While you're bed-bound you may want something to clean your hands with before eating.
Snacks: You may be hungry after the birth and a cup of tea and slice of toast won't cut it. Pack easy-to-eat snacks, ideally those high in fibre, to get things moving after surgery. Dried prunes and apricots can help ease post-section constipation.
Extra Pillows: You will be sore after the birth and may not even be able to lift the baby. Packing an extra pillow (or v-shaped pillow that you'll keep using once you get home) will help you position the baby so you can breastfeed comfortably without straining.
Shower Gel With A Hook: Once you make it to the shower you won't want to be bending down to grab your shower gel. Find a bottle with a hook so you can hang it up instead.
Dry Shampoo And Hair Tie: Don't expect to be mobile immediately after your C-Section. Hospital showers are waiting for you but you may find you're not able to get to them until the days after the birth. Dry shampoo and a hair tie will help you feel better for those new baby photos.
What To Pack For The Baby
Babygrows, vests, nappies and more babygrows... think in bulk when packing for your baby:
Car Seat: You'll need something safe to take your baby home in. Leave this bulky item in the car so it doesn't take up space on the ward and get it when you need to leave.
Going Home Outfit: Pick something according to the weather, fluffy snowsuits for winter and rompers for summer are great.
Babygrows: If this isn't your first baby then you'll know babies go through a lot of clothes. Pack six or seven, and maybe leave a second bag with your birth partner or in the car with spares in.
Socks And Hats: Despite some hospital wards being stifling hot, your baby will lose a lot of heat through their head so pack some cosy essentials.
Nappies: Don't rely on the hospital for nappies as many won't provide them. Allow as many as 12 per day and leave some spare in a second bag elsewhere.
Cotton Wool: Check with your hospital, but some won't allow the use of baby wipes. Instead, pack cotton wool for those nappy changes.
Cora Lydon is a freelance journalist living in Suffolk with her husband and two children. She’s also a children’s book author who loves finding activities and place to inspire her children. Her dining table bears the scars of many craft activities attempts (many unsuccessful).