What to eat during labour

What to eat during labour…

So it’s not long until the day when you get to welcome your little one into the world. You’ve been stocking up on nappies and you have your hospital bag ready to go… but have you considered what you’ll need to eat and drink during labour? With the average first time labour lasting eight hours, and maybe even up to 18 hours, labour is more of an endurance event than a sprint for many women, so you’ll want to pack some snacks just in case. In today’s blog, I share my top snacks to pack, and why.

Obviously, the duration of your labour is different for everyone, but if you’re going to have a longer labour, it’s important to be prepared with the right foods. One of my sisters is a midwife, and she almost delivered her first baby in the hallway of the hospital, he came so quickly! Yet, my mother always tells the story that she was in labour with me for three days! She says that I was determined from the start, and no matter what the doctors did to induce me, I had made up my mind that I was not coming out until Father’s Day, and that’s what I did. I know, my poor mum, right?!

I have my fingers crossed for you that your labour will be a quick one, but either way, it pays to be prepared.

Traditionally, hospitals discouraged women from eating and drinking during labour, and yours still might….but the latest research shows that fasting during labour is completely unnecessary, especially if you have a low risk labour. In fact, some studies go as so far to suggest that women who eat and drink during labour may actually have shorter and healthier labours…. however, many women don’t feel like eating or drinking during labour, so remember to listen to your own body, and do the best that you can.

So, if you are going to eat, what’s the best choices?

Carbohydrates

Labour is usually a strenuous and long-lasting exercise that requires a significant amount of energy, kind of like running a marathon. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source to fuel such a strenuous task. Carbohydrate-rich foods are known to help to reduce fatigue and increase muscle strength, both of which are important during labour. So, if you can fuel your body with carbohydrate-rich snacks, particularly in the first stages of labour, then it’s probably a good idea.

Carbohydrate-rich foods include toast (although I’d recommend white or wholemeal instead of grainy bread in this instance); fruit, especially bananas; natural, un-buttered popcorn; dry crackers, breakfast cereal or yoghurt.

Stay hydrated

As with any endurance sports, hydration is very important.  You may not feel like drinking, especially if you are vomiting or have diarrhoea, but it is important to keep your fluids up. Many women become dehydrated during labour, and that often results in severe constipation soon after delivery. Isotonic drinks and sports drinks like Hydrolyte, Gatorade or Powerade are a better choice than water because they hydrate your body more effectively, so I’d recommend throwing a few of them into your hospital bag. Some hospitals offer icy-poles, and again, even though you may not feel like it, I’d encourage you to suck on one to help keep you hydrated if you can.

 

At the end of the day, labour is different for all of us, but if you can, I’d encourage you to snack on some carbohydrate-rich foods, and regularly sip on sports drinks to help keep you well-fuelled throughout the duration of your labour.

As always, I’m here to answer any of your dietary questions, so please feel free to post below!

 

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Melanie McGrice is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian with over 15 years experience in media and public speaking. Awarded the 'excellence in dietetics' award in 2012 for her leadership in weight management, and having practised at Eastern Health for over 10 years, Melanie has worked with some of the most challenging weight management cases. She is passionate about educating Australians to eat well, appreciate good food and maintain a healthy lifestyle, so that they can feel great and get the most out of life. Melanie's blogs provide nutrition advice, suggestions for increasing your physical activity, strategies for dealing with emotional eating, lessons from experts and my professional opinion on a range of dietary issues.


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