Sense-able Hospital Bag: Part 3- Touch


“To touch the surface is to stir the depths” -Tom Myers, Author of Anatomy Trains

So far, your potential list of items to bring to your chosen birthing place are filled with items to appeal to your sense of smell and your sense of sight.  You know how important appealing to your senses is when you are trying to distract your mind.  Now, we need to find something to appeal to your largest organ: your skin.

There are two main ways to appeal to your sense of touch that we will explore today.  First, we will talk about how you can touch an inanimate object.  These inanimate objects can range in texture, but each should provide a different level of stimulation that can distract your mind through your worst contractions.  Next, we will talk about how having a partner (or doula!) can provide the needed element of touch from another person.  Just as skin to skin is important between a parent and newborn, touch for the birthing person is also beneficial.  And, as always we will list some of our favorite items that you might want to consider bringing to your birthing place and one item that you cannot leave home without.

Something for your fingers to do

Sometimes it can be difficult (and funny in the right situations) to know what to do with your hands (first date anyone?).  Plus, I know when I get nervous, I like to twiddle my thumbs or tap my fingers together.  And during labor, that is no different.  We suggest filling those hands with something that you love! 

Find an object or objects that either you love or have an interesting texture.  That feeling of that object between your fingers will allow you to focus on the sensation of that rather than what is going on in the rest of your body.  Scratchy surfaces like sandpaper are great as they add the element of sound.  Soft or silky surfaces are relaxing and will hopefully allow your mind wander to a time when you were just lounging and relax.  Having an object that you love can also give you the security that can be needed to try to ensure your birth goes as smoothly as possible. 

As always, make sure not to bring too many objects, objects that are too big, or breakable objects to your chosen birthing space.  If you are bringing something from home that the birthing place might already have (pillow case, blanket, etc.), make sure there is a way to distinguish yours from theres and that your birth team is also monitoring to make sure it stays with you.

Stimulating the Love Hormone

The sense of touch is extremely powerful, but also extremely taken for granted. The ability to connect with another individual through touch can greatly improve someone’s overall health and mood.  Oxytocin, the hormone of love as some say, is released when another person touches you in a welcoming way.  By having that connection through touch, trust and safety are built.  

As we discussed a few weeks ago, male partners specifically, get nervous in the throws of labor and tend to touch the birthing person less.  Your doula is specifically trained to help partners feel involved and confident in their touch.  Plus, by having a doula present, fathers do not feel guilty if they are not able to provide that physical touch the birthing person needs.  

Another great way to incorporate touch and stimulate the skin is to add items that are either cold or hot. A cold compress is going to be great to not only decrease your overall temperature, but also to temporally numb an area if it is painful.  Heat, on the other hand, is going to be great to relax your body and muscles.  

A few of our favorite “touches” to add to your bag

  • A favorite soft pillowcase 
  • A handmade blanket (that is washable of course!)
  • A shell from your favorite beach
  • A hairbrush to simulate a wonderful scalp massage
  • Warming massage oil for either your partner or doula to use to relax your tense muscles
  • A cold compress for your perineum as you approach active labor
  • The phone number of your doula (who is also a licensed massage therapist) :-) 

Pro-Tip: Bring some comfy socks or slippers! Your feet and legs are likely already swollen, and being able to slip in a non-hospital pair of socks can feel relaxing and rejuvenating.