Eating and drinking during labour
What you need to understand about eating and drinking during your labour
Once the contractions kick in, should you be eating or drinking? We answer all your questions about eating & drinking during labour.
Are you allowed to eat or drink during labour?
Since the 1940’s women have been advised not to eat or drink during labour to reduce the risk of complication if a c-section is needed, as you would have to go under general anesthetic. Since then however it is now deemed safe to eat and drink during labour if you want to, unless you have received drugs like morphine or pethidine, or you have medical problems that make a general anaesthetic more likely. It’s unlikely you’ll need general anaesthesia in a c-section, and recent studies have shown that labour can be shorter if you do have snacks during labour. After all, your body is working very hard so an empty stomach may make it more difficult as you won’t have as much energy.
Eating during labour may also help you feel better later on as your body won’t start to break down it’s fat stores to gain the energy it needs, otherwise known as ketosis. Ketosis occurs when your body is using more energy than you're taking in and can make you feel sick, light-headed and give you a headache.
Although mild ketosis is considered normal in labour, a few extra calories could help you.
What should I eat and drink during labour?
In terms of drinks during labour you may want to consider isotonic drinks which give you energy. Water or weak squash are also a good option. We would advise to avoid fizzy drinks in case they start to make you feel unwell.
If you’re going to eat during labour, think small and light. High fat foods are quite heavy on your stomach so could make you feel bad, and sugary foods will give you energy though this may be short lived and could eventually make you feel low.
To give you fuel and bring up your energy levels we would suggest carbohydrates and liquids such as toast, sandwiches, yoghurt, plain biscuits/crackers or soup.
To ensure you don’t take a turn for the worse after eating it’s best to eat little and often, such as a small snack every hour or so.
Not only do you need to consider your own needs when in labour but your birth partner should also consider and be aware of their energy levels so they can give you the support you need!
What if I need a caesarean section?
If you need a caesarean section you will be advised not to eat anything from that point incase you need a general anaesthetic.
Saying this, most c-sections aren’t done under general anesthetic as it’s safer for you and your baby, instead you may have a spinal anaesthetic. It's a single injection that lasts 30-60 minutes depending on the dose and is used when speed is needed. For instance, for an emergency caesarean.