The News on Eating During Labour

There is a joke in my husband’s family about the night he was born. My mother in law went into labour just as she was sitting down to supper, and she missed her roast beef. She didn’t eat until after he was born, and by then she was STARVING! Thirty-five years later, and he’s still apologizing.

It became policy to restrict women from eating while in labour back in the 1940s when labouring women were given inhaled anesthetics for pain and more likely to be unconscious. The risk of aspiration (vomiting and inhaling into the lungs) was much greater. Tools and medical procedures were much different than they are today.

The advice until now has been to eat beforehand, but new evidence is changing minds — something hungry women have been arguing for years: It’s ok to eat during labour! 


Obviously, everyone is different, and some women don’t feel like eating as labour gets stronger. The point is, low-risk women should be able to choose whether they eat or drink during their birth, and “most healthy women can skip the fasting and, in fact, would benefit from eating a light meal during labor.”

Doesn’t that make sense? Your body is burning a lot of energy! Although there is little research on the nutritional needs of labouring women, there is a strong comparison between birth and sports. Although it is capable of extraordinary things, the uterus is a muscle that performs better with fuel. After 12 hours of labour, wouldn’t you need a little energy?

Some awesome things to eat during labour would be foods that are easy to prepare and high in energy. Carbohydrates are the best choice because they break down slowly and are easier on your stomach. Nuts, dried fruit, vegetables, crackers, soup, noodles, yogurt. Think about what you like to eat, something that doesn’t smell strongly, and is low in fat. Maybe leave the roast beef at home.

Did you eat during your labour? What did you have? Tell us your childbirth snack ideas in the comments!

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