Can you eat & drink whilst in labour?
#15 Small Talk 2019
Can you or can’t you?
In last weeks’ blog, I walked you through the 4 stages of
labour before you were rewarded with the birth of your little miracle. This
week let’s explore whether you should/shouldn’t eat and drink when you are
actually in labour. Or should you just stick to ice chips and water?
Some do and some don’t!
Some women actually feel very hungry and will want to eat during labour while for others eating may be the last thing on their mind. Generally, we are brought up in the belief that we shouldn’t have anything other than those recommended ice chips and sips of water – just in case we need an emergency C-section. This belief is because anaesthesiologists worry that should you have eaten a big meal and then need an emergency C-section you may vomit while under the anaesthetic. This could lead to the contents of your stomach going down your “windpipe” which, in turn, could lead to complications such as breathing issues and maybe even an infection. Labour is, however, hard work and some women do want to eat, especially if they are going through a very long labour of 8 hours or more. And there have been even been cases where the doctor has actually told his pregnant patient to go for a walk and even have some lunch and this was after the patient had been induced!
So do you eat or don’t you? It is advisable to stick to
those ice chips and water if you are at high risk for a C-section (if your baby
is in the breach position and won’t or can’t be turned) or if you are expecting
twins. During your pregnancy check ups and your visit to check out the
hospital, chat to your doctor and the maternity ward sister to find out what
they believe about eating during labour so that you can be prepared.
Nowadays, most C-sections are done with an epidural which
does not carry the same risk of vomiting as the anaesthetic is regional. But if
you are scheduled for a C-section, even under an epidural, you will probably be
advised to skip the meals for 8hours prior to the surgery. This is a precaution
taken as there is still a risk that you might need a general anesthetic if the
localised epidural does not work.
What to eat, if you are allowed
The general advice is that when you are in early labour eat
foods high in protein and carbs with a bit of fibre thrown in as labour. You
are in for a marathon when the pushing part starts and this requires strength and stamina! Later on you
may feel like cold foods and here a smoothie would come in handy. Fruit can
give you a quick fix for energy, because of its sugar content. During the
pushing phase of labour you need all the strength you can get and anything
heavier or containing lots of fat should be avoided as they would divert the
blood away from your working muscles to your stomach in order to digest the
When the marathon is over
Once your baby is born and you are settled back in the ward
with your little one snug in your arms or in his/her crib next to you, you may
suddenly feel ravenous! If the hospital allows it and the kitchen is open, you
could ask for sandwiches and tea (I did after the birth of my one son and those
sandwiches still live on in my memory as one of the best meals I have ever
had!!). However, remember to pack in snacks when you prepare your “birth bag”
just in case you cannot get anything to eat from the hospital cafeteria.
It seems that whether you eat or not during labour will
really depend on what your doctor/hospital rules are as well as whether you are
at risk of having a C-section. Hopefully, you will be allowed to do what your
body will want to do – so if you feel very hungry, especially early on in
labour, do eat before you even take yourself off to the hospital, unless you
are at risk for a C-section! It has been observed that pregnant women who eat
during early labour seem to have a much shorter labour than those who don’t
eat. Remember, you are going to be working very hard for quite a few hours and
you need to give your body the correct nutrition in order to be able to work
Yours in lifestyle newborn photography