Energy, Food and Fluids in Labour

Eating and drinking are really important in labour.  Labour is an intense physical experience, and our bodies need fuel and fluids for this in the same way that an athlete needs fuel for their workouts.  Eating and drinking in labour will keep up your strength and provide you with energy and hydration.

How much to eat in labour?

In labour, small portions of easily-digestible food is the key.  It's also good to note that when labour is established, contractions come every 3-4 minutes and last for about a minute, therefore food that is very chewy or crunchy will not be as helpful as food that is quick and easy to eat.

Carbohydrates are usually better choices for labour instead of sugary, fatty or fried foods.  In early labour, protein will provide sustained energy for labour.  Scrambled eggs are perfect for early labour, as are omelets.

It's important to eat and drink in labour

Restricting food intake during can cause dehydration and can also cause the body to break down fat.  This can cause nausea, vomiting, lack of energy, exhaustion, a slower labour and possibly lead to fetal distress and greater pain.

Foods that I recommend for labour

  • Fruit
  • Smoothies
  • Yoghurt
  • Stewed fruit
  • Diluted fruit juice
  • Soup
  • Frozen fruit

Drinking in labour

I recommend women drink an additional one-to-two litres of fluid while they are in labour.  Dehydration can set in quickly and can be difficult to reverse without resorting to intravenous fluids (via a drip).

Partners and support people can help by offering a drink after every contraction. Bendy straws are really helpful.

Diluted fruit juice (not orange juice), water and sports drinks, are fine, but cordial and fizzy drinks should be avoided.

Melissa Maimann is an endorsed eligible midwife in private practice in Sydney.  One of the first eligible midwives in Australia, Melissa now offers a range of care options for women including private midwifery care, antenatal shared care and birth support.  Visit Melissa's website to learn more about her services.