What to pack for the hospital when you go into labor

Feeling your water break and experiencing contractions are telltale signs of pregnancy, signaling that you should pack up your things and head to the hospital in anticipation of your arriving baby. Although it may seem like the last thing on your mind, you should put together an overnight bag or two full of essential items.

If you're not caught completely off guard by the start of labor, you and your partner may want to take some time to figure out exactly what you need while you're at the hospital or birthing center and then for the trek back home. Depending on how organized you want to be, you may find it helpful to pack two separate bags.

If you're not sure where to start, here are some tips.

Personal items
It's always a good idea to start with the personal items that you need, which are generally the most obvious. For instance, you'll need to bring some clothes. As comfortable as hospital gowns are, you may not want to wear them while recovering from delivery, especially if you're staying the night. Therefore, fill your bag with pajamas, a bathrobe, slippers and fresh underwear and socks. Then, of course, you'll need a going-home outfit. Sweatpants and a comfy top may be the ideal option for this, as you'll most likely be exhausted.

Something you may not think of in the hustle and bustle of things is to bring eyeglasses if you wear them! The last thing you may want to face is having to wear contacts, especially if you're staying overnight.

On top of clothes, you'll want to bring a nursing bra - purchased ahead of time - and sanitary pads.

Finally, you won't want to forget your basic toiletries and cosmetics, especially if there will be lots of pictures taken.

Baby items
Once you've got yourself covered, you'll want to pack the stuff your new son or daughter will need. Your little one will also need a going-home outfit, and depending on the weather, a hat and warm socks can help keep him or her toasty warm. In addition, you should buy a receiving blanket ahead of time.

For the ride home, new parents must equip their cars with a car seat. This is essential, as it's not safe for a newborn to be held during this trip.

Other items
Now that both you and your baby are all set, you may want to consider what kinds of things you'll want to have on you to keep you occupied during labor - you never know quite how long it will take! Obviously, you'll want to have your cell phone on you, and if you have a smartphone, you have a compact entertainment system that most likely can record videos, take photos and play music. Just make sure you pack your charger! Some women also like to pack a journal so they can jot down some of their experiences while they're still fresh in their memories.

Other good things to have on hand are some of your favorite snacks. While the hospital most likely has food, it may not have a great selection.

Finally, you don't want to forget important information, such as your health insurance card, your birthing plan (if you have one), pregnancy medical file (any medications you're currently taking) and your healthcare provider's contact information.

What are the most important things you packed for your hospital stay? Was there anything you didn't think of that you wish you did? Let our readers know and leave your answers in the comments section!