About a year ago, I was supporting a couple through labour when things began to stall.. contractions slowed down.. and mum and baby were both showing signs of getting tired. She’d tried changing position, going for a wee, all the oxytocin inducing techniques, but it wasn’t speeding back up.. hmm we were thinking, what next? THEN, she ate a single, mini jammy dodger… We were back in business!! Things picked back up, and within the hour, she birthed her baby naturally, in the pool, like the absolute superhero she was!
When things slow down in labour, everything we learn, particularly in hypnobirthing, tells us we must be producing Adrenalin.. Are you feeling scared? Did someone new come in the room? Where’s the oxytocin gone? Why has it all slowed down? But, though the hormones of labour are CRUCIAL in helping things go smoothly, there are other things we need to take into account. And one of them is food!
Um.. ‘Why WOULDN’T you eat in labour?’ I hear you ask! A bit of background.. Historically, almost 100 years ago now, the majority of women were put into something called ‘twilight sleep’ for their births- where they would be so heavily anaesthetised, they would have no memory of the birth, and unsurprisingly, eating or drinking in this state wasn’t a good idea – and it came with a high risk of aspiration (inhaling vomit), and therefore, women were discouraged (or even forbidden) from eating. Fortunately ‘twilight sleep’ is a thing of the distant past and the current risk of aspiration whilst under general anaesthetic during birth, today is 0.0000007% (0.7 in a million!). Phewf! For some reason, even though such medicalisation of birth is now non existent, the idea of ‘not eating’ during labour seems to have stuck around. Hmm..
Surges (or contractions) are the muscles of the uterus contracting and releasing, for several hours or even days up to the point of birth. In order to do this, they need energy (obviously)- which as you can guess- requires food (or calories in some form)! Very little has research has been undertaken specific to the nutritional needs of women in labour, but research in sports science has found that taking in carbohydrates during ‘exercise’ (ie. Labour) improves performance and protects against fatigue and ketosis (where the body burns it’s own fat or tissue for energy- rather than the carbohydrates from food).
So perhaps that is how the magic Jammy Dodger saved the day and saved the birth! The final sugar rush her body needed to get that baby born! They were the first thing I put in my hospital bag for our own birth, and I even almost bought shares in Jammy Dodgers.. (though any variety of sugary snack would do the trick!).
So when you’re packing your birth bag or stocking the cupboards for your home birth- make sure you’ve got some high energy snacks in case things slow down.. If the usual methods of bringing back surges aren’t working- this might just do the trick!
The current guidance in the U.K. is that low risk labouring women, including those with epidurals, should be able to drink and eat as they choose throughout labour. The only time where the recommendation is for you to not eat, is if something happens during labour where your ‘risk’ of c-section becomes more likely (And epidural does not increase the likelihood of c-section) or if you use opioid drugs (which can cause nausea/sickness).
If you are interested in taking the next step to a positive birth, Positively Birthing Hypnobirthing and Antenatal Classes run throughout Surrey and SW London- areas including Surbiton, Esher, Teddington, Cobham, Twickenham, St Margarets, Thames Ditton, Molesey, Richmond, Wimbledon, Kingston, Sunbury, Epsom, Ewell, and beyond. All bookings can be made here.