Hydration for Labor
As labor doulas and childbirth educators, one of the most commonly asked questions we get is how important is it to stay hydrated in labor. The answer is easy: VERY! We stress to our clients that not only is it important to stay hydrated during labor, but it’s also crucial to stay well hydrated in pregnancy and leading up to labor. During pregnancy the best source of hydration is water, especially if you are eating regularly and eating well. You likely don’t need the extra sugars that come with juices and carbonated beverages, and caffeine is likely to dehydrate you, as it is a diuretic. Some studies suggest that drinking 8-12 glasses of water in pregnancy helps to decrease the chances of morning sickness, constipation, urinary tract infections and premature birth, and helps maintain adequate levels of amniotic fluid for your growing fetus. Water-rich foods such as cucumbers, celery, melons and strawberries can also help to maintain hydration.
When it comes to labor, staying hydrated is of the utmost importance. As doulas you can find us putting a straw to a laboring moms lips after each and every contraction. The uterus, like many muscles, functions most properly when it is fully hydrated. Many times women call us thinking they are in early labor as they feel crampy, but once we suggest they drink a tall glass of water and lay down for a few minutes, they realize their uterus was just reacting to not being properly hydrated.
Inadequate hydration can lead to maternal exhaustion, which is the number one reason for home birth transfers to hospitals, as well as the need for IV fluids in the hospital. One study suggests that adequate hydration in labor is correlated to shorter and more efficient births, as well as reduces the need for inductions or cesareans. During the active phase of labor, the vast majority of women have no interest in eating, but are still in need of calories and electrolytes to help them sustain the rigors of labor. This is a great time to utilize beverages besides water. Some of the beverages that we most commonly recommend, and that are in full supply at Health Living Market and Cafe, are VitaCoco coconut water (which comes in a variety of flavors for all tastes), Cider Road Switchel (also comes in a variety of flavors and is a great electrolyte builder), and Recharge (a natural Gatorade substitute). Alternating sips of any of these beverages with water after every contraction can help ensure that you are staying hydrated for a safer and more pleasurable birth experience.
Cheers to good health and happy babies!
Written by Taste Maker Rachel Stanton
Rachel holds a BA in Human Services and Psychology, is a certified doula, certified in MotherMassage ®, and is a trained lactation educator. As a labor and postpartum doula at Birth Journeys, she offers compassionate, intuitive, and evidence-based support that is tailored to each family’s needs. She also works for the Vermont Department of Health’s WIC program as a peer breastfeeding counselor and is currently working on her 200-hour yoga teacher certification through Yoga Vermont. When Rachel is not supporting new families, you can find her having outdoor adventures with her husband and two children, enjoying a regular yoga practice, or baking.