Nutrition in Labor - Be Empowered Birth Series

What to Eat in Labor - Be Empowered Birth Series

Nutrition in Labor

Be Empowered Birth Series

Birth is probably the most physically demanding experience you’ll ever have; women who have worn activity trackers during labor have recorded calorie burns that exceed the typical marathon! Just like you would for a marathon, you need to plan ahead to fuel your body well during birth.

Early labor:

It might be hard to focus on eating as labor begins, but this is a great time to eat foods that will fill you up and deliver nutrition that lasts into active labor. Try to eat small portions frequently to keep your energy up, and stay hydrated as your body prepares for active labor.

Balanced meals that contain healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and clean protein sources will both fill you up and deliver both long-lasting energy. Stay away from heavy dairy, greasy foods, and sugar-packed beverages like soda. Nuts and fruit, eggs with avocado, yogurt and granola, and protein smoothies are all great choices.

Active labor:

Quick energy from light, easy snacks is key during active labor. Frozen or freeze-dried fruit, granola bars, applesauce pouches, and honey sticks are great choices for complex carbohydrates that will deliver an energy boost when you most need it. Avoid foods that are very acidic, that are difficult to chew, or that have a strong smell.

Even as your appetite wanes as labor intensifies, make sure you are staying hydrated. Coconut water supplies electrolytes without the sugar that most sports drinks have, and ice water feels great as you heat up. Using a cup with a straw can help you easily get sips of fluid in between contractions.


  • Have a variety of favorites available so that as your appetite and taste changes like it can during labor, you’ll have choices.

  • Make sure your doula knows where your food is!

  • Pack enough snacks for your birth partner.

  • Check with your provider about their food and drink policy well in advance, and remember that ultimately you are in charge of what you consume during labor.

Eating and drinking the right nutrition during labor can make a big difference in your energy, mood, and endurance. Whether you’re birthing at home with access to a full kitchen, or at a hospital where you’ll have to bring your food with you, preparation is key. And don’t forget to pack some healthy treats for after you’re done; you deserve it!