Photos: Having a few pictures in your labor bag may help bring you to a calmer state of mind. It could be a photograph of you and your husband, your puppy, or a magnificent ocean scene—whatever eases your mind is perfect.
Stuffed Animal: It may seem strange, but packing along a fuzzy stuffed friend can make all the difference in your labor. When you don't feel like squeezing a hand during those hard contractions, squeeze the teddy bear. Having something cute and cuddly by your side can help bring a smile to your face at a time when you'll be grateful for such distractions.
For an even more complete list of items you'll want to be sure to pack for your hospital stay, read BabyZone's What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag.
Use Labor Techniques
You're all packed up—have been for two months—and you feel it: your first contraction. Before you know it, you're rushing off to the hospital and it's time to start putting all the things you've learned into practice. There are plenty of ways to keep your cool during labor; the key is finding those that help you the most.
Breathing: Whether or not you've taken a birthing class such as Lamaze, there are several ways to breathe and visualize during contractions that help ease pain and keep you focused. Clarke suggests visualization on a focal point, focusing on a sound, and patterned breathing as helpful examples.
Hypnosis: Many pregnant women are learning self-hypnosis techniques to make laboring easier and less painful. Look for HypnoBirthing seminars in your area to learn more about this technique that may help keep you in a constant state of relaxation during labor.
Hot/Cold Therapy: Since every woman is different, there's no right or wrong way to go here. Spending some time in a warm bath or using ice packs on the lower back can work wonders. Some women even enjoy both extremes at the same time, with an ice pack on the lower back and a warm pack on the neck, for instance.
Walking: Movement during labor can be beneficial and help speed up the labor process. Pacing, leaning against your partner, or just alternating positions can make the pain less intense.
Reducing Stimuli: Some women find it utterly distracting for the lights to be up to their fullest, the family chattering away in the room, or the TV blaring. "Dimming the lights and using soft voices," can help the mom-to-be concentrate, says Clarke.