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Hungry Mamas? I Feel You!

There are mama friends who ask me, “You mean you ate during labour? I didn’t know we were allowed to do that!”

Having been trained in Sports Science, I would never dream of stopping anyone who has just finished an intensive workout from eating – I mean, I would fear becoming someone’s meal. WHEN then, and WHY did we, stop mamas in labour from eating when she’s going through the most rigorous workout in her life?

To answer this, we have to go back in time…

Picture credit:, "The Reality of Childbirth in the 1800s"

Did you know that in the late 1800s, women would be drugged so heavily that they would wake up from labour to find that they had already birthed their baby? A labour analgesic called “Twilight Sleep” was used which was a mixture of morphine and scopolamine. For this reason, the eating restriction was placed on birthing mamas as there was an increased risk of aspiration – where food or liquids are inhaled into the lungs, thereby causing severe inflammation or even death.

Needless to say, medicine and the sciences have come a long way since then. Hence, mamas can now opt for a regional anesthesia, better known as an epidural.

Science also explains that pregnant women are at an increased risk of aspiration because:

  • the enlarged uterus puts upward pressure on the stomach

  • Progesterone, a hormone associated with pregnancy, is a muscle relaxant. This means the muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that acts as a barrier to keep the contents of the stomach from entering the windpipe and the lungs is less likely to be snug and keep the contents in the stomach.

Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center post, “Why was eating during labor banned in the past?

Further, if you are going in for a planned Caesarean – AND are at high risk, having multiples or having health problems- you may still be asked not to consume any food or drink for some time before the surgery.

Having said this however, there are some mamas who have also expressed that they don’t feel hungry at all during labour…

My point of this post?

Eating and drinking is a part of our everyday lives which comes second nature to us – more so in a country like Singapore where so many LIVE for their favourite plate of Char Kway Teow halfway across the island. It is precisely because eating is so ingrained that we often forget about it in our birth plan.

It is always important to check the hospital policy about eating and drinking during labour. In addition, ask your gynae how they feel about it. If you aren’t certain if you’re going to feel hungry or the slightest bit peckish during labour but would like to keep your options open, this is a great question to ask early on in pregnancy during one of your visits to your gynae. It might even be a point of consideration when choosing one!

If you’d like to ponder over a detailed read regarding the research and evidence surrounding eating and drinking during labour, I highly recommend reading this article on the Evidence Based Birth site a go.

In the meantime, if you’re wondering what snacks to pack in the hospital bag or even what to include in your birth plan, drop me a message and let’s have a chat!

Sending you all my love,


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