What to eat during labor
Eating and drinking during labor, especially in the early stages, can provide you with necessary energy and help you remain more comfortable.
Eating and drinking during labor, especially in the early stages, can provide you with necessary energy and help you remain more comfortable. Labor is very aptly named because it is a physical task that requires both strength and stamina. Restricting your food intake during labor cause stress, nausea, vomiting and headaches. Being properly nourished and hydrated can prevent you from becoming exhausted, which can prolong labor and lead to fewer contractions that are less effective.
If birthing at a hospital or birth center, it’s best to discuss their policy on eating and drinking with your care provider well in advance.
Although excitement or nervousness may dampen your appetite, early labor is a great opportunity to eat deeply nourishing foods that will fuel you for several hours. Eating foods that appeal to you in the early stages can help you feel better as your labor progresses. Eating and drinking smaller amounts more frequently is easier on digestion than larger quantities less often.
What to eat?
- Aim for light, well-balanced snacks or a meal that includes complex carbohydrates, with some protein and healthy fat to stabilize blood sugar and energy.
- Quinoa and avocado, or brown rice and an organic egg. Both are light but substantial and well balanced.
- Grass-fed yogurt, if you tolerate dairy.
- Banana or apple with nut butter.
- A green smoothie.
- Dried fruit and nut mix, (preferably without sulfur).
As labor progresses, your appetite will naturally decrease as you focus on the task at hand. If you’re able to, eating small snacks or even just bites of easily digestible foods can help you to maintain your strength. It’s wise to have a few options available because you don’t know what might seem appealing, or if you’ll have an aversion to certain tastes or smells. Consume foods that are light and easy on your stomach, similar to the types of food you would chose if you were recovering from a stomach flu.
What to eat?
- Natural sugars from healthy sources to provide quick energy.
- Frozen fruit: banana, grapes, or blueberries. When frozen these fruits are refreshing and remain soft.
- A spoonful of raw honey, for a boost of energy.
- 100% applesauce. The individual squeeze packs meant for toddlers are actually great with a straw during active labor.
- Frozen red raspberry ice cubes with honey. Raspberry leaf tea is wonderful throughout pregnancy, and during labor it can stimulate strong, productive contractions.
- Dried fruit bars with minimal ingredients.
- Oranges or orange juice. The acidity may cause an upset stomach or burning if vomiting occurs after consumption.
- Protein and fat. These slow the rate that your muscles use energy supplied from the sugar.
DRINKING DURING LABOR
Just like any other intense physical activity, it’s especially important to stay hydrated during labor. Even when you no longer feel like eating, continue to take little sips of liquid in between contractions. In preparation for labor, assign someone attending your birth to be responsible for offering you a drink every 15 minutes. Having them bring a straw to your lips will make it much easier to consume.
What to drink?
- In early labor: water or bone broth, which is nutrient rich and can assist with nausea.
- In active labor: lemon-lime labor aid, provides electrolytes which are required for muscle (uterine) contractions.
YOUR BIRTH TEAM
Don’t forget about your birth team. Anyone attending the birth, like the father, a doula, or photographer will need to have more substantial food to keep their mood and motivation up while supporting you. You will be better off with foods that don’t have a strong smell, which could bother you as labor intensifies.