As the end of your pregnancy approaches, all eyes are on your hospital bag. Complete strangers or colleagues at work might urgently enquire as to its whereabouts. Do you have it in the car? Is it ready to go by the front door?

You’ll get lots of tips about what you need in it for after your baby is born, but what about those crucial items to support you during labour? Whether you’re super-organised and have it ready since 20 weeks or you’re a last-minute-girl, the contents of your hospital bag can mean the difference between an over-abundance of babygros and the perfect toolkit to help you have a comfortable and positive birth.

Forget about the nappies – pack a small amount and anything else can be bought later. There are three essential items that should be in your hospital bag. They won’t take up much room and will cost you less than a tenner – and they might not be what you think.

1 A packet of bendy straws

There is nothing like a cool sip of water at the perfect time during labour. Hospitals are very warm and your body is working really hard so having lots of water to hand will keep you hydrated and moisten your lips. But if you’re already in the perfect position and don’t want to move a muscle – never mind tilt your head – your birth partner can just pop a bendy straw in a small bottle of water and make it miraculously appear at your lips just when you need it. And then make it go away again.

2 Two facecloths

Cheap as you like. Have one for running under the cold tap. A cold face cloth to wipe around your neck or drape over your face is just bliss in a hot maternity hospital. The other facecloth is a very important tool. Use this one to make a warm compress to protect your perineum – the area of skin between your vagina and anus – to ease the arrival of your baby’s head and to help prevent any tears or injury. Simply ask your partner to run the facecloth under a warm tap, squeeze it out, check the temperature on their arm first, and then gently hold it against the area. The warmth of the compress will help soften up the skin and stretch it.

3 A wheatgerm heatpack

Made of natural materials, a wheatgerm heatpack can be warmed in a microwave or on a radiator and applied to wherever you’re feeling your contractions for some comforting warmth. They work like a hot water bottle but without the worry of bursting, so you can use them both at home and in the hospital. They’re also great on your lower back in late pregnancy if your hips are feeling a bit dicky. They’re divine around your shoulders just after your baby is born to help you relax and heal. You’ll pick up a heatpack in a pharmacy for approximately €7 but if the budget is tight, you can make your own with a big thick sports sock and a box of rice. Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil to give it a comforting scent.

All three items will take up a tiny space in your hospital bag and barely put a dent in your budget, but on the day you might just find them invaluable.

© Sylda Dwyer, AlphaBirth 2015.  Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the owner is strictly prohibited.