Labour is like the equivalent of running a marathon; it’s long, it’s tough and it can be gruelling. Yet, there are ways of making it easier and more comfortable and one of these ways is to keep your energy up – after all, it can go on for more than half a day. So what are the best foods to eat when it’s time for your new arrival to make an appearance? Which ones will work with you, rather than against? We’ve done the research and come up with the top foods to eat during labour.

Labour normally lasts between 12 – 14 hours on average, but a first baby can often take around 8 hours, and as a general rule, once you’re dilated to 10cm, it can take another 1 – 2 hours before your baby turns up. It’s normal to feel hungry and thirsty, especially during the early stages of labour, and although some medical professionals will advise you not to eat once contractions start, eating can actually shorten labour by up to 45 minutes. However, it is always best, if you’re having your baby in hospital, to check with them what their food policy is.


Why eating during labour can help?

If you decide not to eat during labour, you can enter a stage of ketosis which is what happens to your body when you undertake prolonged physical activity. It can leave you feeling or actually being sick, and can also result in a headache. It’s often considered normal to experience mild ketosis during labour but if you’re also hungry and tired, this can slow labour down and in turn, lead to interventions being required, such as drugs or an assisted birth. So if you can, make sure you eat something to keep you going!


Top Tips for eating and drinking during labour


What to drink?

Absolutely keep your water intake up – staying hydrating will really help. Some women will arrive at hospital or the birthing centre prepared with energy drinks and if you decide to drink these, make sure you’ve drunk them before so you know how your body will react – some can have a laxative effect which you definitely don’t want… Whilst water is ideal, the most nourishing liquid is broth – both beef broth and chicken broth – and best of all, it can be made in advance and whilst it’s best enjoyed hot, you can enjoy it cold too.


Eat carbohydrates little and often

Carbohydrates give you a slow release of energy which is exactly what you need to keep your stamina up! Choose foods such as brown bread, brown pasta, brown rice, bananas and cereal bars which don’t contain too much sugar. Only eat a little at a time as food takes longer to digest during labour (blood flow is steered towards the womb), and you can vomit if you eat too big a meal.


Steer clear of any foods which are:

Sugary – Some sugary foods can feel good as they give you an energy burst but these are often short-lived. As a last resort, if you don’t manage to eat during early stages of labour, then it may be worth sucking on sweets for bursts of energy but keep these to a minimum.

Acidic – These include fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, which can also make you feel sick. If you want fruits, then choose cooked fruits, such as apple sauce.

Fatty – Foods which are high in fat can leave you feeling sick too.

Spicy – With digestion slowed down, you don’t want food to repeat on you, especially anything that’s spicy. Whilst they say that spicy food can bring on labour, you don’t want to be eating it once the baby starts arriving.


Don’t forget your birth partner

He or she will need to keep up their energy in order to support you! Encourage them to eat regularly, too – you will both need your strength.


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