Something I get asked a lot as a doula is, “Can I eat during labour?” The answer is usually yes, but this wasn’t always the case. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there on the safety of eating during labour. In the past, doctors and hospitals have had either a no-food policy or clear-liquid-only policy, however, research has shown no benefit to withholding food and drink from women during labour. As a result, many hospitals are loosening or getting rid of the policy altogether, however, it will still very much depend on your own doctor, nurse, and current situation.

So you can eat during labour — but should you​? The thing is that labour is a very physical experience which takes a lot of energy and burns a lot of calories. Staying well-nourished and hydrated during labour can work wonders in increasing your stamina. I tell my clients over and over that pain isn’t the enemy in labour: exhaustion is.

Staying hydrated and nourished is a simple way to beat the exhaustion of working through labour and birth, but there’s a time and a place for everything once your body is in established labour. Birthing a baby will become your body’s main priority and biggest focus, so you will likely have absolutely no desire to eat.

The best time to eat,​ and eat well, is in the final days of your pregnancy and during early labour. This is the optimal time to nourish your body, like you’re preparing for a marathon.

If you were to call me and say, “Hey Kaitlyn, I think I’m in labour,” nine times out of ten, I will tell you to have a light meal and then sleep as much as possible. It is so important to prepare your body so you can have enough energy to get you through the entire process, right until the moment of meeting your baby.

So what should you eat? ​Well, I’m going to just get real with y’all for a minute. Whatever you eat during labour it’s not unlikely that it will be coming back up again at some point, usually around the time you hit transition. Unfortunately, throwing up is a completely normal bodily reaction to the sensations of labour. It’s just a little fact you might want to consider when you’re picking your early labour meal. Choose something light, but that has enough protein and good fat to give you long-lasting energy. Stay away from anything greasy or anything that might upset your stomach.

If a client asks what they should eat I will usually suggest something like…

– whole wheat toast with peanut butter and bananas

– greek yogurt with granola and fruit – avocado toast with some nuts

– a smoothie

– a boiled egg

– chickpea salad

– protein bars

To ward off any mid-labour exhaustion, pack some snacks in your hospital bag that are easy to eat and will give you a quick energy boost. Things like…

– hard candies or mints

– honey sticks

– dried fruits

– candied ginger

– popsicles

So what about drinking? ​Staying hydrated is so important and beneficial to the labour process. The hospital has cups with lids and bendy straws and the best ice ever. Or you can bring your favourite water bottle, just make sure it has a straw for easy access for drinking in any position. Try your best to have at least a sip of water between every contraction. If you want something other than water to help keep your energy up you can try…

– Gatorade or a homemade electrolyte drink

– coconut water

– fruit juice, like apple or pineapple

– iced red raspberry leaf tea with honey and lemon

– more water!

What should you eat after babies born?​ Well, lady, you should eat whatever the heck you want because you just had a baby and you deserve it! But if you can’t wait for your dream post-baby meal to magically appear, the hospital has a little kitchenette with toast, peanut butter, jam, and apple juice that someone can make up for you. And trust me, it will be the best pb&j you will ever have because you will be absolutely ravenous.

Well, there you have it.

All my best tips for eating and drinking during labour! I hope it helps you have an empowered and energy-filled birth!

Kaitlyn Breederland is the owner of Edmonton based doula agency Heritage Birth Services. They provide physical emotional and informational support to edmonton area moms and moms to be! Their services include labour and postpartum doula support, placenta encapsulation, bellybinding and postpartum herbal baths. for more information about them head over to their website or find them on instagram @heritagebirth.

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