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Planning for Delivery: Everything You Need in Your Hospital Bag

You can leave your curling iron and shoe collection at home, but filling your labor bag is not one of those instances in which you should aim to pack light. Between downtime, contractions, delivering and recovery, you'll need a number of essentials for yourself, your partner and your baby. Pack this bag early in your third trimester and double-check its contents when your due date closes in.

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Your Birth Plan

Creating a written birth plan isn't mandatory, and some moms might feel comfortable going into labor without one. But writing down your preferences gives everyone on your support team an idea of how to help you have your ideal birth experience, so this is a step worth taking.

A birth plan doesn't have to be an elaborate document. Your OB-GYN might have a template you can fill out, or you can simply jot down your ideas. Write down what you'd like an uncomplicated birth to entail – whether or not you want an epidural, who you want in the room, what positions you'd like to try laboring in and so forth. You can also make specific requests – that you be allowed to breastfeed immediately after birth or that the labor room be kept as quiet as possible, for instance. In the event that you need to undergo a cesarean section, you might write down that you want your partner to be in the room or that someone describes the process as it unfolds.

Make several copies of your birth plan to include in your hospital bag. Some of your requests might not prove feasible for the medical staff, but some could be.

Comfort Items

If you're planning to give birth in a hospital, bring comfy slippers so you can walk in your room or hallway," advises doula and birth educator Linda Worzer, who's based in the Dallas area. If you're planning to deliver in a birth center, she advises bringing comfortable shoes you can wear to walk around outdoors.

Pack lip balm and a few personal care basics, such as shampoo, face wash, body wash, a toothbrush and toothpaste, as well as contact solution or glasses. You'll be the subject of many photos in the coming days, so if you're concerned about your appearance, you might want to pack mascara, tinted moisturizer and a hairbrush or comb.

Bring your own pillow from home; it "smells good and helps mom relax," says Worzer. Cover it with a bright or patterned case to distinguish it from hospital pillows. And because you could have hours of downtime, plan to bring your phone and/or tablet and any necessary chargers. Bring at least one comfortable nightgown or oversize T-shirt. You might have the choice to wear this instead of a hospital gown during delivery; labor can be messy, so don't bring anything you'd be crushed to ruin.

Labor Supplies

To some extent, your labor supplies depend on your birth plan. For instance, says Worzer, if you're going to deliver in a birth center, you might want to bring a two-piece swimsuit or a sports bra to wear in the birthing tub. Some hospitals might also allow water births. She also suggests bringing candles or an aromatherapy diffuser to a birthing center. A hospital probably won't allow candles, but you can bring essential oils to rub on your skin to get a hit of a soothing scent.

Bring photos or a comforting object you can focus on during contractions, and load an MP3 player or your phone with a selection of your favorite songs to play during labor. You might also want to bring a portable speaker. You'll also want to have hair ties and breath strips in case you vomit.

Logistical Supplies

Pack your insurance card and any registration paperwork you've already received from the hospital or birthing center.

Your partner should pack his own bag, but if he doesn't, stow some of his clean clothes, his phone charger and some snacks in your bag so he doesn't have to leave your side during your stay. Stash some cash in small bills in his bag to pay for parking and for snacks from the vending machines or cafeteria.

Postpartum Necessities

After labor, you'll want to have a nursing bra and breast pads to soak up leaking milk. Bring maternity underwear and heavy-flow pads. Even if you're provided these items, you'll be more comfortable with your own underwear and favorite brand of pads.

For a going-home outfit, pack a flowing dress or a pair of loose maternity pants and a comfortable top.

Pack a notepad or baby journal and pen so you can record your thoughts and feelings while they're still fresh and also keep track of your baby's breastfeeding progress.

RELATED: Must-Haves for Your Hospital Bag

Your baby will need a onesie, hat and receiving blanket to wear home. If the weather is cold, bring a cozy blanket to tuck over him once he's buckled into his car seat. You'll probably be provided with newborn diapers and wipes, but it doesn't hurt to pack a small stash.

Photograph by: przemekklos/iStock/Getty Images

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