Snacks and Drinks for Labour
Snacks and Drinks for Labour
Labour burns a huge amount of energy, so it’s a good idea to have nutritious snacks on hand to help keep you going.
Here we’re taking a look at some of the best snacks to eat in labour, what to drink during labour and what snacks you might want to pack in your hospital bag.
Can you eat during labour?
The answer is yes. In fact, eating during the early stage of your labour is often a good idea, since it will give you some much-needed energy, which you’re likely to need as your labour progresses1.
Whilst some women have an appetite during labour, others don’t, so listen to your body and respond accordingly. There’s no right or wrong here. Research has shown that there’s no difference in the length of labour, or the number of complications experienced, between women who choose to eat during labour, and those who don’t2.
If you feel like eating during your labour, eating little and often will help you to sustain your energy, so bite-sized portions are ideal. Other things to try include:
- Avoiding large, heavy snacks and meals as these may make you feel nauseous and uncomfortable.
- Opting for wholegrain carbohydrate based snacks such as wholegrain crackers or oatcakes, as these will give you a slower and more effective release of energy.
- Avoiding snacks that are high in sugar, since these will only give you a short-lived burst of energy.
It’s worth knowing that if you’re having a C-Section, it’s possible that you’ll be asked to avoid eating or drinking, so always check with your doctor or midwife for advice here.
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When it comes to what to eat during labour, it’s best to be guided to some degree by your appetite. Some of the best snacks for labour include:
- Bananas and other fresh fruits.
- Sandwiches made with wholemeal bread and healthy fillings such as chicken, houmous or sliced banana.
- Wholegrain biscuits and crackers.
- Energy bars (be sure to check the sugar content).
- Dried fruits and nuts.
In the run up to your baby’s birth, perhaps pack some of your chosen energy-packed snacks for labour in your hospital bag. That way, you’re as prepared as you can be when the time comes.
Gestational diabetes snacks for labour
If you’ve been told that you have gestational diabetes, you’ve probably received some dietary advice from your doctor and midwife throughout your pregnancy, to ensure that your condition is managed.
Making sure that your blood sugar levels remain stable during your labour is very important, for both you and your baby, and having snacks for labour on hand can help.
If you have gestational diabetes, snacks for labour include3:
- Oatcakes and plain biscuits.
- Cheese portions.
When it comes to what to drink during labour, water is always a healthy option, but if you’re looking for an alternative, try sugar free squash or flavoured water4.
As you approach your due date, you might be wondering what snacks to take for labour and what food to pack in your hospital bag.
It can be tricky planning for eating and drinking in labour, as some of the things you’ll need to take with you on the day. Fresh fruit for example, or yoghurts or other dairy products. Other snacks for labour however can be packed in your hospital bag ahead of time, and some you might want to include are:
- Wholegrain biscuits and crackers.
- Nuts and seeds.
- Energy bars.
You’ll find more information on that all-important hospital bag checklist here.
As you prepare for labour, it’s important to continue eating a healthy, balanced diet. As you approach your due date, you might want to try eating smaller nutrient dense meals more frequently. If you’re feeling the pressure on your stomach as your baby grows, this may help you to feel more comfortable.
It’s also very important to stay hydrated as your pregnancy progresses.
There’s some research to suggest that eating dates approximately a month before your baby is due to arrive can help to reduce your chances of having a C-section5. However, research here is limited, and it’s important not to eat too many dates due to their sugar content, which is of particular concern if you’re diabetic.
The importance of nutrition during labour
Labour uses up an enormous amount of energy, and your body requires a sufficient amount of nutrients to get through it.
Studies suggest that as well as helping you through periods of fatigue, receiving adequate nutrition during labour can help to reduce the risk of ketosis6. Ketosis is a condition where the body dips into its fat reserves for energy, with symptoms including nausea and headaches. Even a small amount of nourishment, such as a small handful of raisins or a sip of an isotonic drink, can help to keep you going7.
As you might expect, labour is thirsty work. It’s important to drink regularly to replace lost fluids from sweat and avoid dehydration.
When it comes to what to drink during labour, water is always a good choice, or no added sugar squash if you’re looking for an alternative. It’s best to avoid fizzy drinks, since whilst they can provide energy, they may also cause nausea and sickness.
As your labour progresses, you might want to consider an isotonic drink to give you some extra energy.
Drinking warm water during labour
There’s no evidence to suggest that the temperature of the water you drink will have any effect on your labour.
The important thing is to ensure you’re drinking enough water as your labour progresses and you can find more guidance about that here.
Can you drink coffee in labour?
For many of us, that morning or afternoon coffee is a staple of daily life, so if you’re wondering whether or not you can drink coffee during your labour, it’s always best to consult with your doctor or midwife due to its caffeine content.
There are NHS guidelines around how much caffeine you should drink during your pregnancy. This is because of the negative effects on your growing baby if consumed regularly.
It may be that your doctor or midwife advise you to avoid coffee during your labour, or stick to decaffeinated varieties.
Stock up ahead of your due date
Labour can be long and unpredictable, sometimes lasting 24 hours or more. In addition, if you have your baby in hospital, in some circumstances you may have a longer stay than expected. Your partner is likely to need snacks too, and you may not want them to leave you to go in search of food, or rely on the canteen or vending machines.
Being well prepared with plenty of snack options means you’ll have what you need if you feel like eating during your labour, or to support those first few days of breastfeeding if you have an extended stay.
- O’Sullivan GI. Effect of food intake during labour on obstetric outcome: randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2009;24:338.
- Toohill J et al. Interventions for ketosis during labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008;(3).
- Kubli M et al. An evaluation of isotonic “sports drinks” during labour. Anesth Analg 2002;94(2):404-408
Last reviewed: 22nd September 2022
Reviewed by Nutricia’s Medical and Scientific Affairs Team
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