There are a lots of different foods that will help your body prepare for birth. For example, from 32 weeks you can begin drinking raspberry leaf tea, which has traditionally been used to help start labour. It is believed to ripen your cervix and start toning the muscles in your uterus, in preparation for labour. It is also a rich source of vitamin C which is good for your skins elasticity, as well as immune function and wound healing.
Boosting healthy bacteria
Your baby’s immunity is developing in the womb and recent research suggests that healthy bacteria is present both in the amniotic fluid and the placenta during the third trimester. The levels and strains of bacteria present depend on your own levels of beneficial bacteria. In traditional cultures, communities support women in their final weeks of pregnancy by preparing fermented foods that are rich in beneficial bacteria. Foods such as, yoghurt, pickles and sauerkraut are good.
Most babies receive a second dose of bacteria when passing through the birth canal, but babies born via caesarean section miss out on this opportunity and studies confirm that they have very different bacterial variations to babies born vaginally.
“I recommend that all babies born via caesarean section or who are exposed to antibiotics either in the womb or post birth should receive a supplement of bifidus bacteria even if they are breastfed.” says Rosie Letts, Nutritional Therapist, Bump and Beyond Nutrition
The benefits of dates
According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, it appears that dates reduce the need for drugs such as prostin and oxytocin which are used to induce labour or help it progress. In the study, 69 expecting women were asked to eat six dates daily four weeks before their estimated delivery date. Another group of women, the control group, didn’t eat any dates. The study found that 96% of the women who regularly ate dates went into spontaneous labour, compared to 79% of the women who didn’t eat dates. This is a great reason to include dates in your diet in the run up to your baby’s arrival!
The importance of building up nutrient levels
The different stages of labour and breastfeeding are stimulated by the release of hormones, such as beta-endorphin, oxytocin and prolactin. The development of these hormones is dependant on the vitamins, minerals and amino acids found in your diet. The B vitamins B3, folate, B6 and B12, as well as vitamin C, zinc, copper and calcium are especially important.
See Foundations of a healthy diet: part two for more information about the role of different nutrients in pregnancy and breastfeeding, and which foods to find them in.
Iron and magnesium help your body make endorphins – your body’s natural pain management team. It is sometimes possible to improve our cells ability to respond to these hormones by making sure we eat plenty of sulphur-containing amino acids which are found in meat, egg yolks and bone broths.
It is also really important to build up your vitamin K stores prior to birth as it is needed for effective blood clotting.
During labour your muscle contractions will be fuelled by your glycogen stores and will also draw on your stores of magnesium, chromium, zinc, B-vitamins and Co-enzyme Q10.
See Foundations of a healthy diet: part two for more information about the role of different nutrients in pregnancy and breastfeeding, and which foods to find them in
Good foods for labour
It is not a good idea to eat heavy or greasy food during labour but eating light snacks can support your glucose levels and give you energy. It is not unusual to experience diarrhoea or vomiting during birth. If this happens to you, it is even more important drink more liquids. Isotonic drinks or coconut water are really useful at keeping you hydrated and giving you energy during labour.
Good labour snacks:
- Coconut water
- Fruit juice
- Isotonic drinks
- Oat cakes
- Museli bars
Information provided by Bump and Beyond Nutrition.