Early labor – when you’re in early labor, your contractions are spaced out, maybe not that intense yet. You might feel a little nauseous, or you might be just fine. The key to this time is to eat when you’re hungry (and maybe a little even if you aren’t). We recommend that you eat what sounds good to you, trying to get some proteins and carbs in, but also remembering that you might throw it up later! Many women, even who didn’t have any morning sickness, vomit at some point during labor, as the hormones shift and the contractions squeeze their insides. One doula suggests “eating like you had the stomach flu yesterday”. Eggs, toast, soup, or chicken breast are all good choices. Stay away from anything that would be too horrible coming back up, like spicy tacos! Many woman find chicken noodle or miso soup to be just perfect. If
Active Labor – if your contractions are regular and intense, you might not feel like sitting down to a meal, but an empty belly might still be bothering you. Snack or cereal bars, nuts, and protein shakes are good choices. Some healthcare providers may suggest clear fluids at this point, but that still leaves you plenty of great options: popsicles, flavored ice (like lemon ice), Jell-o, broth, ginger ale, teas, juices without pulp, Gatorade, soda, even honey and sugar are allowed on a clear fluid diet. It might not be as filling, but usually at this stage just enough to assuage your hunger is what you need. Moving into transition or being in transition is often when women feel like they might be sick, but it’s also frequently a signal that progress is being made. Don’t worry if you do puke, it’s not the worst thing your nurse has ever seen!
Pushing – you’re probably not going to want to eat while you’re pushing, but having water or juice on hand is a must! You’ll be thirsty and if you do feel like you need a little energy boost, think about something pixie stix or honey sticks to get that quick sugar rush and finish pushing out that baby!
If you’re not sure what your doctors or birth place recommends, talk to them as early in your pregnancy as possible. Early studies have shown no negative results to eating during labor and that women who eat when hungry in labor have a higher rate of satisfaction with the entire birth.