It’s no surprise that hospital policies have changed to protect expectant moms and their babies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many hospitals around the country now only allow one support person to be in the room during labor, and that person should be healthy with no temperature or cough.
It’s also becoming more common for hospitals to place limits on how often your support person can come and go. Additionally, you’ll likely be asked to stay in your room during labor, and you might be discharged a bit early if both mom and baby are healthy, experts say.
With these changes, you may be wondering if your hospital bag list will require additional items, or if a shorter stay means you won’t need as much.
What to pack in your hospital bag during the pandemic
The good news? Most of the items you’ll need during labor and delivery will remain the same, experts say.
Pack your birth plan, insurance card, pillow and personal items like a cell phone and extra-long charging cord, pajamas, slippers, a change of clothing, toiletries and any personal care items you want for your own comfort.
Items for baby, like a going-home outfit, will also be the same, and most importantly, remember to bring an infant car seat to safely transport your little one home from the hospital. (For more, here’s a full packing list.)
Once you get to the hospital, your bag should stay in your hospital room at all times.
Here are a few other items you may also consider bringing:
- Plenty of drinks and snacks. If there’s a snack or beverage that you know you’ll want after you give birth (or that your partner will want during labor), make sure you pack it. In the past, your support person could go out or visitors could bring you additional food, but limits on the number of people you can have with you might make this tricky. Every hospital has different rules, but some “don’t want your support person leaving the hospital once you’re there to go get snacks,” says Alex Phipps, clinical manager at Roper St. Francis in Charleston, South Carolina.
- A small tripod to prop your smartphone. Since many hospitals only allow moms-to-be to bring one support person into the room, your hospital may let you prop up your cell phone or tablet so you can communicate with family, friends or your doula during labor. However, while you can FaceTime during labor, many hospitals have policies that don’t allow you to take videos during delivery. Other hospitals may provide such devices. “MUSC provides an iPad in each labor and delivery and postpartum room to FaceTime with your other family members and friends,” says Scott Sullivan, M.D., director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. Ask your hospital what their policies are around technology so you can prepare accordingly.
- Face covering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 2 years and older wear a cloth mask in public, so it’s a smart idea to pack extras in your bag.
- Hand sanitizer. Pack a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol (often listed on the label as ethanol, ethyl alcohol, isopropanol, or 2-propanol).
What you don’t need to pack
- Additional cleaning supplies. Hospitals use cleaning supplies that are effective and don’t damage the equipment in hospital rooms. As a result, your hospital probably won’t encourage you to bring your own cleaning supplies. “Our nursing staff and environmental services have a strict protocol for cleaning the hospital rooms, operating rooms and common areas,” says Dr. Sullivan. That said, your support person can still wipe down areas you may touch often, such as the table holding your food tray and drink.
- Gloves. “It’s much better to practice good hand hygiene than it is to wear gloves,” says Phipps. When people wear gloves they’re less likely to continually wash their hands, which is much more important to protect against the coronavirus.
In general, pack less, experts say. Many hospitals are allowing moms and babies to leave earlier than they normally would, which means you might not need to bring as many clothes as you might have if you weren’t giving birth during the pandemic.
“We are encouraging healthy moms with an uncomplicated delivery to go home the day after a vaginal delivery and two days after a C-section,” says Dr. Sullivan. “In some cases, discharge may be arranged even sooner depending on the maternal and newborn needs.”