For decades, the only thing women were allowed to eat during labor was ice chips.
This was due to the danger of inhaling the food or drink into the lungs while under general anesthesia.
Anesthesia has changed and these rules have been relaxed in recent years. According to research presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ 2015 annual meeting:
“…the energy and caloric demands of laboring women are similar to those of marathon runners. Without adequate nutrition, women’s bodies will begin to use fat as an energy source, increasing acidity of the blood in the mother and infant, potentially reducing uterine contractions and leading to longer labor and lower health scores in newborns. Additionally, the studies suggest that fasting can cause emotional stress, potentially moving blood away from the uterus and placenta, lengthening labor and contributing to distress of the fetus.” // ASAHQ.org
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists agrees you can drink and eat during labor:
“Laboring women can turn to clear liquids such as water, fruit juice without pulp (though the acid in OJ may trigger tummy problems), carbonated beverages, clear tea, black coffee, sports drinks, and clear broth (no chunks, please).”
The question remains – what food and drinks are good to eat and drink during labor?
What you can eat during labor:
- Toast with jam
This easy snack will provide a great energy boost that’s easy on your digestive system.
Some plain pasta (skip the Bolognese sauce and cheese) will keep your energy levels up and help you feel satiated.
- Jell-o or applesauce
These go down easy and offer you a great energy boost.
- Whole wheat crackers
- Granola bars
- Scrambled or boiled eggs
What you can drink during labor:
- Clear broth
Chicken or vegetable broths are nutritious, easy to digest, and comforting for the laboring soul. (Homemade is always better than canned!)
- Sorbet or popsicles
Great for sucking on and providing hydration, look for popsicles made with fruit so you can cram in some vitamins.
Water, water, and more water. Aim for a minimum of 1 liter an hour. You may also have:
- Any pulp free fresh fruit juice except for orange juice
- Fresh smoothies
- Apple juice
- White grape juice
- Herbal tea, especially nettle and red raspberry leaf
- Honey-sweetened tea frozen into ice cubes
If for medical reasons your food intake is restricted during labor, ice chips are very refreshing and hospitals have an endless supply. Have as much as you like.
On the off chance that your contractions fail to distract you from craving a steak and potatoes, resist the temptation to do so. Trust me, you do not want to be suffering from a full stomach, heartburn or indigestion while you push.
Whether or not you eat during labor, you should pack some snacks in your birth bag for your partner. You don’t want him wandering off and leaving you alone to look for food when you need him most. You also don’t want him passing out from hunger!
What are your suggestions for light foods to eat during labor?
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