One of the most exciting parts of working with pregnant women is helping them prepare for the biggest physical event of their life – labour!
Researchers suggest that the energy demands of labouring women are similar to those of marathon runners! With first labours lasting an average of 8 hours and up to 18 hours, it is important to keep your energy up.
Whether you are planning for an unmedicated birth or not, it is great to be prepared before your due date, so you have appropriate food and drinks on hand.
Traditionally, eating and drinking was discouraged in hospitals. But latest research shows that fasting during labour is unnecessary, particularly if you have a low risk labour. One study recently published in the American Society of Anesthiosiologists stated that most women with a low to no risk labour would benefit from a light meal.
Most midwives and OBGYNs will support eating a bit of light, easily digestible food during labour but it is stillI best to discuss this with your health care providers prior to your due date, as every pregnancy is different. Put it on your birth plan too.
Leading up to your due date, try to eat nourishing, nutrient dense meals as much as you can. This will put you in a good position if you go into labour quickly and your appetite diminishes rapidly.
Ok, so labour has begun, what do you do?!
If you are like me, you may not feel like eating at all but if you do, here are my top tips for food and drinks during labour:
This is absolutely vital to keep your energy levels up, whether you are having an unmedicated birth or not. Often it is the last thing you feel like doing but it is so important to help you get through your labour. I went 8+ hours with barely anything to drink or eat as I just didn’t think about it! Next time around, I will put my husband in charge of giving me more fluids throughout labour. Using a straw is helpful so that your birth partner can simply hold the straw up to your lips.
If you don’t feel like food or drink, make your fluids count and have something like diluted apple juice or coconut water to boost your glucose levels.
You may also want to prepare some Labour Aid in advance, which is like a natural sports drink. I had this ready to go but didn’t take one sip during labour. It was, however, absolutely heavenly after labour – so thirst quenching! I prefer labour aid over commercial sports drinks as personally I would find drinking bright red or blue drinks during labour off putting (and if you throw up, it might not be very nice either!).
Foods For Early Active Labour
During early active labour, you still may feel you can nibble of some food. Avoid foods that might be unpleasant if they came back up.
Some good options here are:
o Nut, oat and protein bars
o Energy balls
o Trail mix with some salted nuts, dried fruit and chocolate chips
o Pureed fruit pouches like apple and banana
o Toast with butter and jam or your favourite topping
o Cold fruit
Foods for Active labour
Once you are in active labour, you will probably forget about food or drink all together. If you can manage it, try to have some replenishing fluids mentioned above, such as Labour Aid, coconut water or diluted apple juice.
Some snacks might include banana or Hydrolyte icy poles.
Some women throw up during the peak of labour, also called transition, so food is not really an appealing option. Keep the fluids up, small sips of water or coconut water through a straw is probably all you will manage.
Forget food or drink, just go for it!
Directly after you have delivered your baby and the placenta, you will probably feel extremely thirsty and ravenous and will happily eat whatever is available!
After I had delivered my baby, the midwife brought me apple juice and Vegemite toast – I can’t tell you how good it tasted!
If you are due soon and preparing for labour, all the best, you’ve got this!!
Have snacks ready to go in your hospital bag as well as things at the ready at home. And don’t forget to pack snacks for your partner or support person so they can keep their energy up, too!
Please reach out if you need any help with planning the arrival of your bundle of joy.