Your birthing checklist is heavy on your mind as you get ready for your baby’s debut. You’ve packed your hospital bag, prepped freezer meals, have millions of tiny clothes folded and put away. Your bassinet and white noise machine are all set up and waiting. But if you’re scheduled for a labor induction, there’s another must-do to add to your list: Eat well before getting admitted! Prepping for labor is like getting ready for the biggest workout of your life, and you need the energy from good nutrition to help support your body for delivery. Here’s everything you need to know about what to eat before your labor induction begins.

What is labor induction?

Labor induction is when your medical provider artificially triggers your labor before spontaneous labor has a chance to start. This is sometimes recommended if your baby-to-be’s weight is lower than expected or if their amniotic fluid is less than the norm. Other reasons you might have labor induced include having high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, or being overdue. At the same time, sometimes families request an elective labor induction for personal reasons. 

Why does eating well before labor matter?

Marathon runners consider their nutrition long before it’s time to race. Labor is no different. In fact, the calorie demands of laboring moms and marathon runners are nearly identical! And consuming those extra calories pays off. Research in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that moms-to-be who fuel up with food during labor actually experience shorter labor times when compared to those who were more restrictive with their in-labor noshing. Though this study was on eating during labor, the benefits are still applicable for eating beforehand.

What should I eat before labor induction?

The best foods for labor are easy to eat and digest, filling, and energizing. That also means avoiding foods that are high in fat, greasy, or spicy, since these can be more difficult to digest. Here are key nutrients to consider before contractions hit:

  • Carbohydrates: Energizes your labor so you can push through like a champ.

  • Protein: Keeps you satisfied and sustained for a hunger-free labor.

  • Low fat: Sticking to low-fat foods may help reduce the risk of laboring with stomach discomfort.  

  • Low fiber: While fiber is great for your health, it can be hard on your digestive system when your body is otherwise working hard during labor. So in this case, low fiber is the way to go.

Mix-and-Match Pre-Labor Foods

Eating before your induction doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need to be concerned about the amount of food you consume, just eat until you’re satisfied. Simply try your best to include a carbohydrate and a protein source. 

Meals to Eat Before Labor Induction

  • Noodles, tofu strips, and broth = tofu noodle soup
  • Bread + peanut butter = peanut butter sandwich
  • Rice + grilled chicken cubes + salad greens = chicken rice bowl
  • Tortillas + scrambled eggs + salsa = breakfast tacos
  • Pancakes + turkey sausage links
  • Roasted skinless potato + tofu strips
  • Toast + canned salmon 

Snacks to Eat Before Labor Induction

  • Grapes + low-fat yogurt cup + granola
  • Applesauce pouch + mozzarella cheese stick
  • Peeled apple slices + cucumber sticks + light ranch dip
  • Watermelon + hard boiled egg
  • Graham crackers + peanut butter
  • Mozzarella cheese stick + cherry tomatoes 
  • Rice cakes + peanut butter
  • Mozzarella cheese stick + crackers
  • Trail mix (dry cereal, dried fruit, crushed pretzels, peanuts)

Can I eat during labor?

Doctors used to tell their pregnant patients to fast during labor because they were worried that they’d vomit and choke while giving birth. Thankfully, that’s no longer the standard advice. However, if you’re obese, using opioids to manage labor pain, have eclampsia, or preeclampsia, your medical provider will discourage you from eating during labor because you’re at an increased risk of aspiration, which is when food or liquid is inhaled into the lungs. For everyone else, having a light meal during labor—like fruit, a light soup or sandwich, toast, water—is a-okay. The only hitch? It’s pretty common for your appetite to vanish during all the breathing and pushing required during labor...and that’s why it’s super-important to fuel up before your induction. Either way, pack a large, insulated water bottle to take with you to the hospital—along with an insulated lunch where you can safely tote some easy-on-the-tummy snacks for you to have during labor. (Check with your hospital about their eating-during-labor policy beforehand.)

About Gabrielle McPherson

Gabrielle McPherson, MS, RDN, LDN is registered dietitian in Missouri who specializes in community and pediatric nutrition. Gaby is passionate about encouraging families to eat well in simple, practical ways that are realistic...and delicious! When not working, Gaby loves cooking, baking, and making messes and memories with her sous-chef/preschooler Charlotte.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.