Can you eat during labor with an epidural?

In this brief guide, we will address the query, “can you eat during labor with an epidural?” We will also discuss the food that may come in handy in those difficult times and the differences between epidural and general anesthesia.

Can you eat during labor with an epidural?

Yes, you can eat during labor with an epidural! Actually, it has been reported that eating before or during labor may shorten the time of the delivery. Unlike general anesthesia, an epidural leaves no room for aspiration to happen.

Eating before labor can be helpful if after the procedure you simply do not feel like it – which is completely understandable! Besides that, some labor may last up to 10 hours and you will need some energy for it.

What is an epidural?

An epidural is an injection in your back used for pain relief during childbirth or even for certain types of surgery. When administered an epidural, you will experience a lack of sensation from your belly button to your upper legs.

This injection can only be delivered by a physician anesthesiologist and it may be administered whether in the beginning, in the middle, or even near the end of the procedure. It may provocate a burning sensation, and instead of pain, some people may feel pressure in the area.   

What are the differences between an epidural and general anesthesia?

Epidural works quickly and it allows the numbing of the back and leg in about 10 minutes! It is mostly used in under 3 hours surgeries.  

In the case of general anesthesia, patients are completely unconscious and they require the use of breathing tubes and inhalation of gas. On the other hand, epidurals allow the patient to be awake during the procedure.

Why can’t you eat before general anesthesia?

As general anesthesia leads to complete numbness, your breathing will be in charge of gas and breathing tubes; and because of this, aspiration can be a risk if you happen to have eaten or drunk anything before the procedure.

What is aspiration?

The term aspiration refers to an accidental sucking of food particles or fluids into the lungs. In order to prevent this, patients are told to not consume any food or beverages from 8 to 12 hours before the procedure.

What are the effects of an epidural?

Although epidurals rarely have issues, there is a small risk that some side effects occur, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Temporary loss of bladder control
  • Headaches

Read more about these unwanted side effects here.

Why was it not advised to eat or drink during labor with an epidural?

As discussed earlier, aspiration is a factor that needs to be taken care of throughout the whole procedure when getting general anesthesia, but as an epidural allows you to be awake, the probability of aspiration happening is very low.  

Studies about the relationship between labor with an epidural and eating during or before the procedure were performed and the results suggest that snacking during labor reduced in approximately 16 minutes of the procedure. 

You should always communicate any doubts you have during your pregnancy to your doctor, and if they advise you not to eat during labor then it is better to attend to their advice.

Has eating proven to be beneficial when in labor with an epidural?

Snacking during labor can be very helpful, studies have shown positive results among some factors that will be benefiting from getting food or beverages, these factors are:


The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) established that low-risk pregnant people in labor can consume clear liquids, and as there is a chance of becoming dehydrated during labor, this comes in handy.


Labor is exhaustive and you need to consume some extra calories to help you through contractions and pushing.

If you want further guidance on this subject, please click here.

What can you eat when in labor?

Labor is a very difficult event that may take some hours to fully happen. In order to get through it, recent research has advised low-risk pregnant women to snack at the moment of childbirth. As nausea is likely to happen during labor, it is better to take it slow with the food.

The recommended options for your consumption during labor should contain complex carbohydrates, to keep your energy up, also proteins are important to keep your energy levels constant: 

Some of these recommended foods are:

  • Brown rice
  • Bread
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Frozen fruit
  • Nuts
  • Greek yogurt
  • Protein smoothies


In this brief guide, we have addressed the answer to the question “can you eat during labor with epidural?” We have also discussed the differences between this anesthesia delivery versus the general anesthesia and other queries related to the subject at hand.

Hope you found this blog useful. If you have any questions, please let us know.


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