Foods to Eat During Labor for Energy-22 to be Exact!
Can I eat during labor?
Will I be “allowed” to eat during labor!?! This is a question we hear a lot. The simple answer is YES! Yes, of course, you are allowed to eat during labor and several organizations including the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) and the World Health Organization formally recommend healthy mothers have access to food and drink during labor.
So why do some women only have ice-chips?
Though the practice is not recommended by most maternal health organizations, many clinicians and institutions still routinely withhold food and drink from women during labor. In the most recent Listening To Mothers Survey, about 80% of women reported that they were not allowed to eat and 60% of respondents said they were not able to drink during labor and birth. Even though The American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecologists formally recommends that low-risk women have access to beverages during labor and birth, they along with The American Society of Anesthesiologist still recommend some restrictions on food during labor which is mostly due to routine practice. If you are concerned about food and drink restrictions you should talk with your provider to make sure that they support your plan to eat and drink as you wish during labor.
What are the benefits of eating and drinking in labor?
Staying well-nourished and hydrated throughout labor is almost always ideal. The birth process can be long, so it’s important to fuel your body for this marathon. Having adequate food and drink will help increase your endurance during labor and birth, reduce stress and anxiety, and give you optimal strength.
Food + Beverages For Early Labor:
On average early labor lasts approximately 8-12 hours, so you will probably have one or two meals and maybe even a few snacks during this time. You should trust your own judgment and eat and drink what you want. The following suggestions are examples of convenient food and beverages you may want to consider because they take little or no time to prepare. These one-handed snacks are ideal since you will be busy laboring away:
- Scrambled eggs
- Nut butter on toast
- Smoothies (have fruit pieces pre-portioned in your freezer)
- Yogurt cup with granola
- Graham crackers
- ‘Easy access’ fruits like grapes, berries, and melon
- Whole grain rice
- Oatmeal or porridge
Food + Beverages For Active Labor:
The later stages of labor really command your attention, so you probably won’t be interested in eating a meal or even a big snack. The time between contractions is also limited, and you want to prioritize your time resting, to maintain your strength. It’s a great idea to have a drink after each contraction, and if you are hungry, eat something that can provide quick, easily available energy to your body. The following snacks and drinks are great options for you during active labor.
- Honey sticks (pack in your hospital bag!)
- Homemade Labor-Aide
- Fresh juice
- DIY electrolyte ice cubes
- Coconut Water (pack in your hospital bag)
- Herbal Tea (with honey and lemon)
- Simple soups like miso or bone broth
Food + Beverages for Your Birth Partner:
What about Dad? Your birth partner will need to stay nourished and hydrated, as well, during labor and birth. It’s a great idea to have simple, pre-portioned, and easily accessible snacks for your main birth support person (He/she can be in charge of packing snacks for both of you.)
- Granola Bars
- Trail mix or nuts
- Individual packs of crackers or chips
- Apple slices
- Juice boxes
- ‘Healthy-ish’ chocolate bar (share with mom, too!)
What did you eat during labor? Do you have any suggestions on snacks to pack and bring with you to the hospital?
Nurtured Foundation is dedicated to supporting and educating families in the Cleveland and Akron areas with services and resources. Have a topic you would like more information on? Let us know here!