If you have a scheduled cesarean delivery, commonly referred to as a C-section, on the books, you may be feeling equal parts nervous and eager.
This type of birth experience may or may not have been your first choice, but there’s one undeniable advantage to having a specific date circled on your calendar: You can prepare yourself mentally and physically for the adventure ahead. (You can also make sure you have a fresh mani for the big day!)
What’s more, you can pack your bags for the hospital well in advance and double check that you have everything you need — plus a few things you want.
Consider dividing your hospital must-haves into two different bags: one with the basic essentials for before and immediately after surgery, and another with supplies for the rest of your hospital stay. This will help lighten your initial load when you first arrive at the hospital.
You can leave the second bag in your car for your partner to grab, or have a visitor bring it to you once you’ve been moved to a recovery room.
Want to know what you’ll need for the whole exciting event? Here are our top picks — and some key tips.
Hospital bags packed specifically for a C-section birth will look slightly different than those prepared for spontaneous labor. You go into a scheduled C-section knowing it means a longer hospital stay, so you’ll need more things. Furthermore, you’ll want some specific items to help with the discomfort that usually accompanies a C-section.
Use these two separate bag checklists as jumping-off points, and then customize them for your own needs.
What to pack in your pre-surgery bag
- a file or folder with essential medical paperwork, list of current medications, insurance card, etc.
- a credit card and small amount of cash
- printed copies of your birth plan
- a list of important phone numbers (unless they’re already saved on your phone)
- your cell phone
- chargers for electronic items — consider bringing an extra-long phone charger so you can keep your device charging at your bedside within easy reach
- a camera
- a book or other activity — in case there’s a delay in hospital admittance or you have an unexpectedly long pre-op wait
- a music playlist
- comfy no-slip socks
- lip balm and moisturizer (it can get dry in those hospital rooms)
- hair ties
- eyeglasses if you need them (note that some anesthesiologists will make you take out your contact lenses before your surgery)
What to pack in your hospital-stay bag
- your own nightgown and/or robe
- nursing bras or tanks and nursing pads (if you plan to breastfeed)
- another pair of non-slip socks and/or slippers
- rubber shower shoes
- toiletries (i.e., toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc.)
- dry shampoo — you might not be able to shower right away
- a hairbrush
- contact lenses
- a comfortable pillow — consider using a non-white or patterned pillowcase to distinguish it from the hospital’s
- a nursing pillow to prop baby up away from your incision
- a breast pump (if you plan to pump early on), although your hospital will likely make one available should you need one
- clothes for your stay and a going-home outfit — choose pants that won’t dig into your incision or opt for comfortable dresses, and remember that you’ll still look and feel about 6 months pregnant
- underwear — the hospital provides mesh panties, but bring your own comfortable cotton pairs that will not dig into your incision
- snacks with fiber — you’ll want to help get things moving after surgery
- a baby book or journal — in case you feel inspired to start documenting your experience
If you’re feeling overwhelmed already, don’t be discouraged. We’ve got your back — and your bags — covered. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Don’t wait until the day before your scheduled C-section to pack your bags. Your goal should be to have everything ready to go around 37 weeks in case your water breaks or you go into spontaneous labor.
Edit down your essentials
Most women will spend 3 to 5 days in the hospital following a C-section. You want to have everything you need, but overpacking and giving yourself too many options could backfire and leave you feeling overwhelmed.
Curating your options in advance will keep you organized. Of course, a few comforts can help you feel more at home in your hospital room. Just don’t overdo it — you’ll be checking out in a few days after all.
Don’t forget that you’ll be leaving the hospital with a tiny new person in tow — you didn’t go through all of this just for the fun of it, after all.
While the hospital will generally provide onesies, you will want to pack a going-home outfit for your little newbie. You can opt for something simple like a one-piece sleeper or a onesie and pants, or go with a more elaborate and special ensemble.
Don’t forget to pack any photo op accessories you may have planned to use. You might also consider packing a special receiving blanket or swaddle, depending on the weather, too. If it’s cold out, you’ll want to keep your baby warm as you transfer them to the car.
If you’re welcoming twins, save space for double the baby goodies. Of course, remember to install car seats around the 37-week mark as well. Many hospitals will require that you have this done before letting you check out.
Take advantage of hospital supplies
There are plenty of items you don’t need to pack. The hospital provides lots of essentials for your first few days together. You’ll have access to all the diapers, wipes, mesh underwear, and pads you could want or need during your stay.
Onesies, knit caps, swaddles, and pacifiers are typically available as well. If you plan on formula feeding, check with your hospital in advance to find out whether they supply ready-to-feed bottles or you should bring your own.
Leave home without it
You should consider leaving expensive items, such as jewelry (including engagement and wedding rings), laptops, and other pricey personal items at home, if possible. And while you’ll want to have a credit card and/or a little bit of money readily available, having excessive cash on hand is not necessary.
Send stuff home
If you have close family and friends visiting you in the hospital, consider asking them to take home items you no longer need (i.e., dirty clothes). This will make packing to head home from the hospital easier.
If you have accumulated lots of flowers and gifts in your hospital room, have someone bring these items to your home, too — maybe keep one bouquet to brighten up the sterile surroundings.
A third bag for your +1
Finally, you might encourage your partner or birth support person to pack their own bag if they plan on staying at the hospital. A few essentials for them could include snacks, drinks, clothes, toiletries, and medications.
One way to reduce the stress and anxiety associated with a scheduled C-section is to feel adequately prepared. Do your research, ask questions in advance, and pack those bags early.
Having everything you need or might want at arm’s length before and after your surgery will make this experience a little easier, as well as enable you to focus on what really matters: the birth of your baby. Good luck, mama!