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Hospital Bag Essentials

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Packing your hospital bag is a defining moment in pregnancy. Some mums-to-be excitedly pack their bag early on, whilst others put it off for as long as possible. Whichever type you are you can't avoid it, so here are some hospital bag packing tips:

• Get your bag ready as early as you can bear, in case the early labour fairy catches you unawares.

• Packing your bag can help you visualise how you'd like to experience labour and birth. If you haven't yet written a birth plan, packing your bag may well inspire you to write one. If you already have a plan, use it to help you pack.

• Pack a bag even if you're planning a home birth. Having everything in one place will help your partner and midwives to help you during labour and birth. It'll also be handy for if you have to make an unplanned trip to hospital.

• Keep the bag along with your maternity notes in your car if you have one--it's best to have your essentials with you wherever you go.

• You might not want to pack items such as your camera and iPod if they're in constant use, so put a note on the front door to remind you to pick them up as you leave.

• Need somewhere to put it all? Browse bags.

• During early labour you might find yourself doing a lot of walking around, so a dressing gown and slippers are essential. There's probably no point buying a nice nightgown though--things will get messy later on. You could find yourself getting bored in the early stages, so bring a book or some magazines. Ask your midwife if she recommends you bring your own pillow.

Until you're in labour it's difficult to know which techniques and tools will help you the most. Do you want to try aromatherapy? Or a TENS machine? Some women find massage helps, but others can't bear to be touched. Check whether the hospital has birth balls, or whether they will let you bring your own. Bring along anything you think might help you to feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible during labour, as well as snacks and drinks to keep your strength up.

Check out the lists below for help and inspiration when packing for labour, your baby, and the postnatal ward.