Why Should or Shouldn’t You Eat During Labour?
Labour can go on for hours and hours long. While your mind is most probably filled with anxious feelings, the fact that it can prolong for such a long time may make you think of only one thing: food. You’re not only anxious and perhaps a bit impatient, but on top of that, you’re also hungry. Then voice it out, and sure enough, after that, the nurse brings you the ultimate labour food – ice cubes.
Ice cubes! Who would have thought? That the one food that you long for when you are battling contractions…are just cubes of ice? But still, that’s what they serve you. Why do they do that? And should you really not have anything else other than just that? Let’s find out about it all below!
“So, why are mothers advised to not eat during labour?”
While this question may have been thrown around here and there, the reality is not that black and white. Perhaps you have also heard some of the hospitals’ policies revolving around ‘no food and no drink’ during labour which can lead you to such thoughts where moms in labour cannot consume much.
Nevertheless, it is not that moms in labour are advised to not consume anything at all, but rather they are advised to watch what they choose to have. In fact, if you yourself had been in labour before or know someone who has, you were possibly more likely to hear “try not to have anything too heavy when you reach the later stages of the labour” than “you shouldn’t have anything at all” in labour. Exhibit A: the ice cubes. Moms are normally given ice cubes to sate their thirst during labour which, in a way, implies that they can still have something. But still, why only ice cubes and not ‘real’ foods?
Back then, doctors and midwives used to require labouring mothers to fast while in labour due to fear of aspiration, which happens when any food or water is inhaled into the lungs. This is primarily the reason why some mothers are asked to fast when going into labour. Another possible complication also is lengthened labour, but again, it is a subjective matter.
One of the main reasons pregnant mothers may have a higher risk of getting aspiration is due to the enlarged womb which presses upwards on the stomach. Therefore, as a way to not place undue pressure on a labouring mom’s body, ice cubes are highly encouraged as they would slowly melt.
Different opinions over the years
The good news is, the idea of women in labour not being able to eat had constantly been reevaluated by many experts including medical practitioners. Over the years, as women have expressed their desire to make labour more of a natural and comfortable process (for themselves), the health care community has been looking at whether the risks still apply today.
Back in 2015, the American Society of Anesthesiologists mentioned that mothers in labour should be allowed to eat and drink whenever possible. Nowadays, it is very common for mothers to have different experiences during labour from each other. One mother can say she had multiple snacks throughout her labour, while another may share that she was ‘strongly advised’ to not eat or drink anything but ice cubes.
Who may get to eat more during labour?
Healthy expectant mothers with low-risk pregnancies would normally get the green light from their doctor. If your pregnancy has been going well and you are also fairly healthy, you may be allowed to snack on things. For some mothers, labour can be a long process in which you could burn calories, so it would be good to have something to replace those calories.
With that said, not everyone who is allowed to eat would want to eat. In fact, there are many moms who find themselves unable to take anything while in labour. They either have no appetite or are not in a comfortable condition to do so. Surely, when nausea and vomiting are close companies, food feels like the last thing you need.
What should you eat during labour?
Considering you have gotten the approval from your doctor and you feel well enough to have anything, there is actually quite a long list of items you can have. Before we get started on what they are, keep in mind that you should only do what your body wants – of course, within reason (emphasis on ‘within reason’).
Hence, let’s go over foods that you might be better off NOT taking during this time. Firstly, stay away from high-fat foods such as fried food and certain types of meats. These may make you feel stuffy and can be heavy on your stomach, which, if you have been feeling nauseous, can worsen it. It would also be better to keep sugary foods like doughnuts and cakes away as they mainly act as short-lived energy boosters.
On the other hand, if you can eat pretty much everything that is reasonable, you have reached the part you came here for! We have a number of foods that you can consider to have during your labour. If you’d like to keep some notes to be prepared, you can start by listing some starchy carbohydrates, particularly whole grains. They can be easily digested and unlike sugary food, they release the energy slowly, thus helping you through contractions.
Foods you can have during labour:
- Nuts & seeds
- Greek yoghurt
- Multigrain bread
- Plain crackers
- Fruit & vegetables
- Honey sticks
Make sure to have them slowly and bit by bit rather than taking a huge mouthful at a time. Moms go through pregnancies and labours differently, so rather than asking for advice from experienced mothers – whose advice may also differ from one another – you should talk to your doctor or physician first. More importantly, follow your own body’s needs as well so that you know what kind of food should be eaten and what should not. Just like everything you do, make sure you know why you do it and how it should be done. It’s that simple!
While the better alternative would be to eat way before labour, sometimes labour comes without much ‘warning’. Regardless of what the situation and circumstances are, the important thing you have to keep in mind is to know what is good for your body. Remember to always listen to your body and what it needs, and feed yours according to your condition. The same goes for after the delivery!
As long as you know what you want to focus on, following a proper diet becomes much easier! If you wonder after pregnancy what to eat, we are here to help relieve your confinement stress! In case you want to know what a proper, nutritionist-approved confinement diet looks like, simply browse through our menu. And with that, we wish you all the best in your maternity journey!