Can you eat during labour?

In this article, we will answer the question, “Can you eat during labour?”. We will also discuss other queries such as do all women feel the need to eat during labour, when should you stop eating and many other queries.

Can you eat during labour? 

Yes, you can eat during labour. Eating a big meal right before you go into labour is not a good idea. However, applesauce, Jell-O, and popsicles might be okay in the early stages of labour.

Why was eating during labour banned in the past? 

Women were asked by doctors to fast during labour after it was discovered in the mid-twentieth century that pregnant women who were put under general anaesthesia had a higher risk of aspiration. 

Aspiration occurs when food or liquid is inhaled into the lungs, which can result in a severe inflammatory reaction or even death.

Are pregnant women at a greater risk of aspiration? 

Yes, pregnant women are at a greater risk of aspiration. There are several reasons behind this including

  • The enlarged uterus puts pressure in the upward direction on the stomach. 
  • A hormone linked to pregnancy, called progesterone, is a muscle relaxant. The muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus that functions as a barrier to protect the stomach contents from entering the windpipe and lungs is likely to be tight to retain the contents of the stomach inside the stomach.

Of course, it was not desired to make them go through this and hence, they were not allowed to eat and drink during labour.

Do all women feel the need to eat during labour? 

No, all women may not want to eat during labour. Nausea and vomiting are very common during labour which is why some may not even have food on their mind during labour.

Are there any solid foods that your practitioner may allow you to eat during labour? 

If you are given permission to eat during labour, start small and stick to your practitioner’s recommendations. Light snacks can help you stay energised and beverages can help you stay hydrated. Stick to the following:

Applesauce/ Jell-O

There’s always room for these. They are easy to eat and will provide you with the energy boost you’ll need for those difficult delivery moments. 

Popsicles 

Take a bite of a popsicle. It’ll keep you hydrated, give you a small boost of energy, and if it’s made with fruit, you’ll be getting a few more vitamins. Plus, it’s a healthier alternative to ice cream. 

Plain pasta 

It’s hardly the time for a dish of penne pasta, but a small scoop of perfectly plain pasta can just be the bland nibble you need. It’s also a wonderful way to load some carbs for the athletic endeavour.

What are the liquids that may be allowed by your practitioner? 

Other than water, the following liquids may be allowed by your practitioner:

Ice chips 

Ice chips have long been a delivery room staple, and they’re fine even if you’re on a no-food diet during labour. When those breathing exercises have left you parched, a few ice chips will be just the thing. 

Beverages

Your practitioner may allow fruit juices without the pulp, tea, black coffee, or a carbonated beverage like a sprite. 

Clear broth 

Consider chicken or vegetable broth as it is warm, simple to digest, and nourishing. Choose homemade or low-sodium versions over canned types that have high sodium levels which may make you very thirsty.

When should you stop eating during labour? 

During early labour, when the contractions are getting stronger, most hospitals will allow you to eat ice chips or take sips of fluids. However, some birthing centres restrict drinking or eating once you’re in their care.

Is general anaesthesia a common practice? 

If a caesarean delivery is planned or scheduled prior to spontaneous labour, general anaesthesia may still be employed. Caesarean deliveries have their own set of surgical restrictions because there is still a risk for aspiration. 

Your doctor may ask you to stop eating solid foods or drinking liquids for a specific time period before your surgery.

Are there any situations when eating during labour is not a good idea? 

Your doctor or midwife will usually advise you to not consume anything while you are in labour if you’re at risk of needing general anaesthesia. 

This is because eating increases your chances of vomiting when under anaesthesia as you also have a chance of vomiting which can be deadly if you inhale your vomit. The risk is increased if:

  • You’re having twins or more 
  • Your baby is in a breech position 
  • You’re having a C-section 
  • Your baby is distressed

What are the practicalities of eating during labour?

When it comes to eating during labour, there is no right or wrong answer; listen to your body and act accordingly. According to some studies, there is no difference in the length of labour or the number of difficulties suffered by mothers who choose to eat or not. Click here to read more.

Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question, “Can you eat during labour?”. We also discussed other queries such as do all women feel the need to eat during labour, when should you stop eating and many other queries.

References

https://utswmed.org/medblog/eating-during-labor/#:~:text=We%20don’t%20want%20you,in%20the%20lungs%20when%20aspirated.
https://www.verywellfamily.com/should-we-eat-or-drink-in-labor-2752955
https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/giving-birth/labor-and-delivery/should-you-eat-when-youre-in-labor/

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Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.