The American Society of Anesthesiologists’ recent press release states that, “most healthy women can skip the fasting and, in fact, would benefit from eating a light meal during labor.” The previous recommendation of only ice chips and clear fluids was based off a 1940s study that claimed that under general anesthesia there was a possibility of acidic stomach contents entering the lungs and causing damage. Even though the cesarean rate of the United States is an alarming 32%, most cesareans are preformed under spinal anesthesia, not general anesthesia.
Healthy women who are not at risk for aspiration should ask their medical care providers (including their physician anesthesiologist and obstetrician) if eating a light meal during labor is safe for them. A light meal could include fruit, light soups, toast, light sandwiches (no large slices of meat), juice and water. Most women lose their appetites during very active labor, but can continue to drink fluids such as water and clear juices, researchers said. (1)
So what foods should you be eating during early labor?
Broth or Stock
The reason to use coconut water instead of just tap water is it’s packed with simple sugar, electrolytes, and minerals to replenish hydration levels in the body. It’s important to maintain your electrolyte level for proper cell function and for energy.
Whole wheat crackers, graham crackers, granola bars, cooked or wholesome cereals, noodles and brown rice are all good light carbohydrates you can snack on during labor.
Bone broth is an excellent source of protein but sometimes you want something to eat more than drink. A scrambled or a boiled egg is light and packed with protein. A banana, apple or celery with almond butter or peanut butter is a nice snack. You can also pack an organic yogurt with some fresh fruit and granola.
Fruits and Juices
Limit your intake of sugary foods while in labor and try to eat light carbohydrates and proteins. If you are craving sugary drinks or foods stick with natural fruit juices (not orange juice), applesauce and fruit.
If you are hungry during active labor, make sure you eat small portions of easily digested foods that you know you like and that sound good to you at the time. Most women will not be hungry during active labor but it is a good idea to stay hydrated. Have your partner offer you sips of coconut water between contractions, you can drink if you feel the need to. Sometimes it is nice to have some honey sticks available to you when don’t feel like eating but are feeling worn out or exhausted.
NOTE: Be sure to ask your practitioner and birthplace about their policies about food and drink during labor.
(1) Asahq.org,. (2015). American Society of Anesthesiologists – Eating a light meal during labor. Retrieved 27 October 2015, from http://asahq.org/about-asa/newsroom/news-releases/2015/10/eating-a-light-meal-during-labor
(2) Mendelson C.L. The aspiration of stomach contents into the lungs during obstetric anesthesia. American Journal Obstetrics and Gynecology 1946; 52: 191-205.
(3) Cdc.gov,. (2015). Retrieved 27 October 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_01.pdf