As a mother who has been in this situation 3 times (so far), I had only started questioning why women are not allowed to eat or drink during labour once I had started my Doula training. My first labour was 22 hours long, 18 of which were spent in hospital, starving and parched! I had been given strict instructions not to consume anything, and I did what I was told, no questions asked! It’s no wonder that shortly after the birth of my first daughter, I passed out due to sheer exhaustion. It was only at 9am the next morning that I was able to hold my daughter for the first time. I wonder now, had I been given the option to eat and drink during my labour, would I have been able to spend that precious Golden Hour with my daughter?
So whats the deal? Why can’t women eat or drink during labour?
Women are told not to eat or drink during labour due to concerns that they may aspirate (vomit and inhale food or fluid into their lungs) should the need arise that they have to be put under general anesthetic, but advances in anesthesia care means that most healthy women are highly unlikely to have this problem. Healthy women, with low-risk pregnancies, should ask their medical care providers if eating and drinking during labour is safe for them.
What should you eat & drink during labour?
Childbirth is going to take a lot out of you, and it is important to keep yourself nourished and hydrated so that you have the strength to get through it. Although you might not have a huge appetite during labour, if you are given permission by your healthcare provider (nag them if necessary!), try to snack when you can, and don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids!
Eat early in your labour to help store up energy for when your labour gets harden. Try to snack on complex carbohydrates (they are the ‘slow-release’ energy foods, like grains and pastas). As your labour progresses, snack on simple carbohydrates (the ‘fast-release’ energy foods, like fruits, honey, juices etc.).
Avoid becoming dehydrated, which depletes your energy & slows labour. Drink often, sipping between contractions. An added benefit of drinking regularly during labour is more trips to the bathroom, which, because of the walking and the squatting, are themselves labour stimulants.
“Research suggests that the energy and caloric demands of labouring women are similar to those of marathon runners” – Christopher Harty
“If we are well hydrated and have adequate carbohydrates in our body, our muscles work better.” – Dr. Berghella
So ladies, check with your healthcare provider on their take on eating and drinking during labour. In theory, if you are healthy and experiencing a low-risk pregnancy, there should be no reason why you should not be allowed to eat or drink during your labour, except for outdated hospital protocol!