Two of the questions I get asked a lot are “What do you bring with you to a birth?” and “What do you carry in your doula bag?” I like to refer to my doula bag as my “bag of tricks” because it’s gigantic and sometimes seems bottomless! My favorite place to start when addressing these questions is to discuss my favorite, or most used, doula items.
1. Ice pack- Labor is intense and can cause the body to feel flushed and hot. A reusable ice pack is one of my favorite items to use during and between contractions. Ice packs can also be used for back labor if placed on the area of pain to help with relief. This is useful because ice constricts the blood vessels, eliciting an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect.
2. Heating pad- Labor can also cause a great deal of back pain and a heating pad placed on the lower back can help relieve some of this discomfort. Applying heat also has an anti-inflammatory effect and can block pain by working through the Gate Control Theory. This means that applying heat to a painful area will block pain receptors from transmitting pain impulses to the brain. Essentially, the brain can only take so much stimulation, so when heat is introduced, those nerve impulses take up the pathways that the pain impulses were taking.
3. Essential oils- I could go on and on about the use of essential oils during labor because there are many options! My favorites are clary sage, peppermint, lavender, and citrus oils. One of the major benefits of essentials oils is that they introduce a positive stimulus into the birthing environment. A person’s favorite essential oil gives them something positive to focus on during the stress of labor.
4. Peanut Ball- I call peanut balls the “miracle balls” because they work wonders at speeding up a slow labor. Peanut Balls are particularly useful when a laboring person receives an epidural. With an epidural, a laboring person is not able to walk and move around, so a peanut ball can be placed between the knees while side lying to help dilate the cervix and encourage the baby to move into the optimal position for child birth.
5. Birth Ball- Birth balls are wonderful tools because they help with cervical dilation and encourage the baby to descend into a good position. They are also distractions during contractions.
6. Rebozo- I always bring my authentic rebozo with me. These traditional Mexican shawls are used for belly sifting, belly wrapping, and so on to help move the baby into the best position as well as relieving pain. Brainybirth.com has a great blog post on the history of this amazing birth tool. It is important to understand the history and honor its role in Mexican culture. Check it out here.
7. Tennis balls- These are great for acupressure! Additionally, I use tennis balls to massage the lower back to help ease back pain. During contractions, they can be used for counter-pressure and as a distraction.
8. Coconut oil- As long as allergies to coconut oil are not present, I like to use coconut oil as a base to be mixed with essential oils and then massage it into the hands or feet to help with pain during labor. This is a great thing to do during the break between contractions to assist with rest and relaxation.
A few other things that I bring with me are peppermints to help with nausea, red raspberry leaf tea to help with contractions, electronic candles to help with relaxation, and snacks for both myself and anyone else in the birth room such as partners or siblings.
*This list is no particular order