Sense-able Hospital Bag: Part 1-Smell

Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived. Helen Keller

For the next few weeks, we will be exploring what to pack in your bag you bring to your birth if you are birthing outside of your home.  Instead of listing items that you may or may not end up actually using, our goal is to help you figure out what is going to make your birthing experience better by bringing items from your home that matter.  Don’t worry, there will always be a few essential items you should not leave home without!

Appealing to the five senses is a great way to truly customize your birth experience.  Furthermore, by appealing to all five sense, the pain you can feel if you decided to have an unmedicated birth, can be lessened because you are distracting yourself.  If you are planning a cesarian birth, you will not be able to bring much into the operating room, but your doula and partner can help prepare your postpartum room with various comfort items to help with an easier recovery.

First up: the sense of smell.

The sense of smell is profoundly linked to memory, more so than any of the other senses.  Certain smells can remind you of your grandparents basement in the summer, the happy memories of family during the holidays, and the first bloom of the flowers in the spring.  A good meal is made great when the smells accompanying are also appealing.  And likewise, a new smell while you are sick can often bring bad associations to that smell even if the smell itself had nothing to do with the sickness.  So it would make sense that smell be closely tied to the next wonderful memory that is being made: the birth of your child. 


How do you pack smell in your hospital bag?

This can be tricky as most birthing place will not allow too much fragrance in your birth room, so it is always best to check with the location prior to birth to see exactly what they do and do not allow.  Furthermore, not all scents are going to work for everyone, so even if lavender can have relaxation properties for one person, it can be an allergen for another.  Always double check!

Smell is not just associated with something that is specifically made to smell nice like a candle, essential oil, or perfume.The best smell could be your own pillow from you bed that was freshly washed that you can hold while you labor.  It is important to think outside the box!  


Some of our favorite ideas:

  • Do you love the way your toddler smells? Bring some of their clothes.  
  • Does your partner have a perfume or cologne that just melts your heart? Spray some on a blanket and bring that with you.  
  • Do you love your dog more than your partner some days? Bring his or her collar.
  • Does your mom’s cooking put you at ease? Bring a hand towel from her kitchen.
  • Does a certain essential oil instantly relax or calm you? Bring a small bottle of it so your doula can put a few drops on your hospital bed.

A little warning: Most birthing places are not going to allow a candle to be lit, or overly fragrant items to be present.  You are not looking to make the entire room small like a wonderful, fresh baked cookie, just a little hint to help make labor, delivery, and recovery more pleasant.  

Pro-tip: Chapstick! Hospitals are dry, and you are going to be breathing, crying, laughing (a lot) and will need that extra moisture on your lips.

Next time, Sense of sight!