What to Eat Before Your Labour Induction
Written by Gabrielle McPherson, MS, RDN, LDN
Your birthing checklist is heavy on your mind as you get ready for your baby’s debut. You have packed your hospital bag, prepped freezer meals, have millions of tiny clothes folded and put away. Your bassinet and white noise machine are all set up and waiting. But if you are scheduled for a labour induction, there is another must-do to add to your list: Eat well before getting admitted! Prepping for labour is like getting ready for the biggest workout of your life, and you need the energy from good nutrition to help support your body for delivery. Here is everything you need to know about what to eat before your labour induction begins.
What is labour induction?
Labour induction is when your medical provider artificially triggers your labour before spontaneous labour has a chance to start. This is sometimes recommended if your baby-to-be’s weight is lower than expected or if their amniotic fluid is less than the norm. Other reasons you might have labour induced include having high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, or being overdue. At the same time, sometimes families request an elective labour induction for personal reasons.
Why does eating well before labour matter?
Marathon runners consider their nutrition long before it is time to race. Labour is no different. In fact, the calorie demands of labouring mums and marathon runners are nearly identical! And consuming those extra calories pays off. Research in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that mums-to-be who fuel up with food during labour actually experience shorter labour times when compared to those who were more restrictive with their in-labour noshing. Though this study was on eating during labour, the benefits are still applicable for eating beforehand.
What should I eat before labour induction?
The best foods for labour are easy to eat and digest, filling, and energising. That also means avoiding foods that are high in fat, greasy, or spicy, since these can be more difficult to digest. Here are key nutrients to consider before contractions hit:
Carbohydrates: Energises your labour so you can push through like a champ.
Protein: Keeps you satisfied and sustained for a hunger-free labour.
Low fat: Sticking to low-fat foods may help reduce the risk of labouring with stomach discomfort.
Low fiber: While fiber is great for your health, it can be hard on your digestive system when your body is otherwise working hard during labour. So in this case, low fiber is the way to go.
Mix-and-Match Pre-Labour Foods
Eating before your induction does not have to be complicated. You do not need to be concerned about the amount of food you consume, just eat until you are satisfied. Simply try your best to include a carbohydrate and a protein source.
Meals to Eat Before Labour Induction
- Noodles, tofu strips, and broth = tofu noodle soup
- Bread + peanut butter = peanut butter sandwich
- Rice + grilled chicken cubes + salad greens = chicken rice bowl
- Tortillas + scrambled eggs + salsa = breakfast tacos
- Pancakes + turkey sausage links
- Roasted skinless potato + tofu strips
- Toast + canned salmon
Snacks to Eat Before Labour Induction
- Grapes + low-fat yogurt cup + granola
- Applesauce pouch + mozzarella cheese stick
- Peeled apple slices + cucumber sticks + light ranch dip
- Watermelon + hard boiled egg
- Graham crackers + peanut butter
- Mozzarella cheese stick + cherry tomatoes
- Rice cakes + peanut butter
- Mozzarella cheese stick + crackers
- Trail mix (dry cereal, dried fruit, crushed pretzels, peanuts)
Can I eat during labour?
Healthcare providers used to tell their pregnant patients to fast during labour because they were worried that they would vomit and choke while giving birth. Thankfully, that is no longer the standard advice. However, if you are obese, using opioids to manage labour pain, have eclampsia, or preeclampsia, your medical provider will discourage you from eating during labour because you are at an increased risk of aspiration, which is when food or liquid is inhaled into the lungs. For everyone else, having a light meal during labour—like fruit, a light soup or sandwich, toast, water—is a-okay. The only hitch? It is pretty common for your appetite to vanish during all the breathing and pushing required during labour...and that is why it is super-important to fuel up before your induction. Either way, pack a large, insulated water bottle to take with you to the hospital—along with an insulated lunch where you can safely tote some easy-on-the-tummy snacks for you to have during labour. (Check with your hospital about their eating-during-labour policy beforehand.)
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.