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What's In My Midwives Bags & Vehicle?

Updated: Jun 28


As Midwives we carry many , I mean MANY bags. As a midwife, the bag you carry around and its core components are a hot topic—one that normally generates curiosity from patients and other healthcare professionals alike. Midwives have varied habits and histories that influence their choice of contents. At the end of the day, preparation is key. Especially when bringing the birth center to the home.


Midwifery bags should contain the essentials to aid the labor and birthing process. The predetermined kit of supplies and tools you bring is what you will have for whatever circumstances arise. Arriving at a birth with the bells and whistles helps ensure safety and wellness in any situation.


That’s a question I hear frequently at consults with prospective clients. The parents to be want to know what kind of tools and instruments I bring to help keep things safe at a baby’s birth. Small children often want to know what’s in that bag, too, but they’re not shy. Most of them just tear into my bag if I leave it unguarded. Family cats are good for that, too.

I know what draws the cats to my bag: the smell of an herbal tincture, valerian, that I carry. Valerian promotes relaxation, sleep, and is a good pain reliever. It also smells like dirty socks, which apparently is very appealing to cats.


Outside the cats, I think everyone else is just curious. After all, midwives are already a little bit out of the ordinary. There’s got to be something exotic and fascinating in all those mysterious bags we carry. It can’t just be reading glasses and protein bars for the midwife.


A few years ago, when I was still apprenticing, I attended a birth in a Mennonite family’s home. Their children were small, didn’t yet know where babies came from, and in keeping with their traditions, probably didn’t even realize there was a baby coming. When their mom was in labor, they were sent to a neighbor’s house. She labored overnight, delivered her baby early in the morning, and the kids came home while we midwives were packing up our bags. When we returned for the first postpartum visit, the mom told us that her little ones insisted that the midwives had actually brought the new baby in one of our bags.


I don’t carry anything quite as exciting as an actual baby, alas, but because the midwife bags seem to generate so much curiosity, I thought a post about what I do carry might be fun. So here goes…


I have basically a 5-bag system, plus a fire pouch for my paper charts (I gave up on electronic charting for the short term, but that’s a topic for another post). Once, feeling optimistic, I posted to Facebook a picture of my neat, tidy bags lined up in the trunk of my then car, and commented that I hoped to eventually reduce down to a single bag. My preceptor midwife I trained under commented simply, “You won’t.” She was so right.

The midwife bag I use most is my prenatal bag, it is a carhart tool bag with multiple areas to store things. Everything is easy to find. The down side is there’s no way to close it to keep out toddlers, cats, or spilling out if I take a sharp turn.


In this bag, I carry everything I need for most prenatal visits, which is surprisingly little: tape measures (plural, because I’m always losing them), for measuring moms’ bellies, scale, pulse ox, urine dipsticks, a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff, and another large-size cuff. I also carry a couple of different fetascopes (special stethoscopes for listening to babies’ heartbeats). This cheap one is black my favorite, and most frequently used. My purple fetascope for listening to baby’s heartbeat.


Although I try to limit its use to hearing the heartbeats of babies prior to 20 weeks gestation, and during labor, I also carry a handheld Doppler, which is probably more familiar to folks who have prior experience with OB rather than midwife prenatal care:

Doppler


This Doppler is waterproof, so it can be used on dry land or in a birth tub during labor, a distinct advantage over the fetascope, which would either require the mom to get out of the water or the midwife to go snorkeling in order to hear the baby’s heartbeat, which would, of course, be less than ideal.


I carry a few more odd items in my prenatal bag: aloe vera gel, which I use in place of ultrasound gel with the doppler, a pen or two (usually) and alcohol wipes for cleaning eveything off between clients. When needed, I also bring my hemoglobinometer and glucometer to check blood sugar and glucose, usually around 28 weeks.


Generally, that’s all that I need for prenatal visits, at least all that can be carried in a bag. The most important tools are still my ears, my undivided attention, and my hands. Everything else is secondary to those.


My next most useful bag is the birth bag.I picked up a Frisbee Golf Bag which has many storage areas and zipper pouches inserts. It holds a ton of stuff, has lots of compartments to organize things (I like to pretend I’ll ccomplish that someday), and it’s sturdy and somewhat water-resistant. Plus, it doesn’t take up much space and serves as a stool for me to sit on.


In this bag, I carry the odds and ends that are helpful at a birth. My Doppler, fetascopes, and blood pressure cuffs and stethoscope from my prenatal bag come with me to births. Inside the birth bag, I keep a heating pad for warming receiving blankets, sterile and non-sterile gloves and gauze, KY jelly, a suture kit in case of a tear that really needs stitches, a couple of catheter kits, various instruments like clamps, forceps, and cord scissors, herb tinctures for stimulating labor, releasing a reluctant placenta, stopping a heavy bleed, or soothing after pains. I carry some essential oils, Bach flower remedies, and homeopathic, as well. I generally try to have a flashlight, spare batteries, and extra pens and reading glasses in my birth bag, although these seem to disappear frequently. In one pocket I keep a few personal items like lip balm, a toothbrush and paste.


Most births don’t require much of any of the below, but I like to have things on hand, just in case. I can think of situations where just bringing out a catheter kit was enough to help a mom who couldn’t pee, without having to use the catheter after all.


The third bag is a baby bag,  A couple of years ago, I picked up a great bag on wheels that ice skaters use to store their skates, and although it isn’t pretty, it has stood the test of time and its on wheels that light up, I know ,I know so cool. Here I keep the things I use for seeing to the newborn. There is a tape measure (again!), a couple of plastic umbilical cord clamps (which I don’t use), a cutter for removing those clamps (which also doesn’t get used), and a spare pair of cord scissors. There is supposed to be a pen, and I keep birth certificate forms here. There are a few spare lancets for performing the newborn screen (which involves a heel stick), some gauze, and a DeLee mucus trap and a bulb aspirator for suctioning, although I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to do that. I keep a resuscitation bag and mask on hand, as well, although resuscitations are extremely rare.


The coolest thing in the baby bag, however, is the scale, a simple spring scale with a flannel sling that attaches and holds the baby. It can weigh babies up to 12 pounds and has also been used to weigh various dolls, toy trucks, and even a friend’s cat over the years. Partners, grandparents, and siblings all usually like to help weigh the baby, and the first weigh-in, at birth, is always a wonderful photo opportunity.


My 4th bag is my puple bag which is my FARM-acy bag. It holds all of my herbs, tinctures, homeopathics, minerals, and any "medications" I have. This is a very important bag, When I arrive at a home and Mama is laboring fast and I dont have time to grab all my bags, This bag and my birth bag are my 2 bags I make sure to grab right away, In the case baby is born right as I walk in. Between these 2 bags I have everything I need right away if baby is coming as I walk in the door. The other bags I can grab once mom & baby are doing fine in their golden hour.


In addition to the contents of my 4 bags, my car normally houses some larger, or less-needed items. I carry a birthing stool, which is rarely used, but I’m very glad to have it when needed. I also keep a submersible pump for draining birth pools. I have a bag of snacks and electrolytes. Adult coloring book and fancy markers to color. Last but not least, I try to keep a spare blanket and some good reading material or a knitting project on hand for the occasional long birth. One day I’ll remember to get a spare phone charger, too.


Every midwife has a different set of must-haves and her own system for organizing her bags. I can only speak for myself with regards to what I carry and use, but I’m pretty sure I can safely promise that virtually no midwife has it all down to a one-bag system, and none of us brings the baby in our bag.


Here is a recommended home birth supply list (some people take more or less things so use this as a reference guide):

 

  1. Maternal Equipment

  • Doppler

  • Fetoscope

  • Maternal Stethoscope

  • Blood Pressure Cuff

  • Thermometer

  • Reflex Hammer

  • Adult Self Inflating Oxygen Bag

  • Nasal Canula

  • Oxygen Tubing

  • Delivery Instruments (blunt tipped scissors, clamps, ring forceps, rectractor)

  • Suturing Instruments (needle driver, scissors)

  • Suture Materials (chromic, vycril)

2. Maternal Supplies

  • Peribottle

  • Flashlights

  • Headlamp

  • Sharps Container

  • Gloves (sm, med, & lg)

  • Sterile Gloves (sizes 6-8)

  • Lubricant (single packs)

  • Gel for Doppler

  • Hand Sanitizer

  • Sanitizing Wipes

  • Needles (22 gauge & 27 gauge – mother & newborn IM injections)

  • Syringes (1mL & 5mL – Pitocin, Vitamin K, & antibiotics)

  • Alcohol Swabs

  • Underpads (usually family provides, but I always have extra)

  • Plastic Bags for Placenta (family provides)

  • Trash Bags (family provides)

  • Bowl for Placenta (family provides)

  • Cookie Sheet for Newborn Resuscitation (family provides)

  • Towels (family provides)

  • Fishnet for Waterbirths (family provides)

  • IV Supplies (IV start kit, tubing, Lactated Ringer bags)

  • Wrist Watch with Seconds

  • Charting Paperwork

  • Pens

  • Back up Batteries

  • Phone Charger

  • Spare Clothes

3. Medications

  • Herbal Tinctures

  • Tylenol / Acetominophen

  • Motrin / ibuprofen

  • Bendryl / Diphenhydramine HCl

  • Anti-Nausea

  • Some Midwives Carry Medications like Pitocin / Oxytocin and or Cytotec / Misoprostol

4. Essential Oils / Herbs

  • Eucalyptus

  • Lavender

  • Orange

  • Peppermint

  • Crampbark Tincture

  • Ginger

  • Ginseng

  • Red Raspberry Leaves

  • Chamomile

  • Echinacea

  • Nettle Leaves

  • Blue Cohosh (use with caution)

  • Black Cohosh (use with caution)

5. Newborn Medications

  • Oral Vitamin K

  • Oxygen Tank

6. Newborn Equipment

  • Baby Stethoscope

  • Otoscope

  • Delee Mucus Trap

  • Newborn Self Inflating Bag

  • Laryngoscope

  • ET tubes (various sizes)

  • Pulse Oximeter

  • Heel sticks

  • Metabolic Screening Cards

7. Newborn Supplies

  • Cord Clamps

  • Tape Measure

  • Baby Scale (clothe hangers with hanging weight scale)

  • Heating Pad (usually family provides)

  • Baby Blankets (family provides)

  • Diapers (family provides)

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