Even if you give birth as quickly as possible to your baby, labor will still probably last at least eight hours. Some unlucky women are in labor for more than half a day or almost a full 24-hours. In some horrific historical cases, women have been in labor for weeks. Assuming you won’t break any world-records, you’ll still be pushing for a good amount of time, and you might be wondering whether or not eating or drinking will be allowed. Many of us don’t go a full eight hours on any day without eating or snacking on something, and through all the pushing and sweating, you might work up an appetite. There is controversy surrounding eating and drinking during labor, so the answer to whether or not you should depends on your doctor’s opinion.

Traditionally, doctors only allow clear liquids to be consumed during labor. The reason solid food is not allowed is because experts fear it could cause aspiration in the event of emergency anesthesia. Choking under anesthesia is the reason doctors tell you to fast before any type of major surgery. Obviously, if you need emergency surgery during your pregnancy and you’ve just eaten solid food, the surgery could either be delayed or you could risk choking while under the knife. However, the likelihood of needing such a surgery when you’ve already started your labor naturally is slim, so many doctors ignore this rule as long as they don’t forecast any serious complications. Some doctors even recommend eating solid food during labor because it puts a lot of strain on your body. Eating a power-packed snack might give you the energy boost you need to stay strong and push harder. In fact, studies show that women who snack at some point during their pregnancy have shorter labors.

Before you head to the hospital when you’re feeling labor contractions, eat a quick snack on the way if you’re up for it. If not, you might get hungry during labor, and even if your doctor allows it, you might be too distracted. If you can bear to eat at a slow part in the labor process, try eating whole-wheat toast with jam, applesauce, Jell-O, clear broth, sorbet, or popsicles. All of these foods are easy to eat and don’t contain fat or heavy dairy, which will be difficult to digest during the strenuous process of giving birth.

Source: Dushyant Maharaj. Eating and Drinking in Labor. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology Volume 146 Issue 1 pp. 3-7 September 2008