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Fuel for a marathon...and labour?
Would sports gels/drinks help in labour?


18 replies to this topic

#1 Cyaira

Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:23 PM

So I've often heard that labour is much like running a marathon*. Except often much longer, and harder, particularly as pregnancy has already taken a large toll on a woman's body.

As a runner, I'm always interested in getting more out of my runs. I was reading that a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that energy and electrolyte drinks and gels can increase endurance by up to 13%, as they provide easily accessible glucose to working muscles.

I know some women can eat and drink in labour quite easily but for those who might find it difficult, these drinks/gels can be very easy to consume and digest, particularly when your body is under stress. And maybe after the birth, choosing foods high in carbs and protein could help post-labour recovery.

Would this sort of thing help in labour by reducing muscle fatigue and maybe pain? Has anyone tried it? Would you choose different foods (not even necessarily sports ones) in labour to fuel you if you started thinking about labour being like a marathon?

Has anyone seen any research on this topic?

Food for thought.




*I haven't experienced labour first hand, if that makes a difference. But I'd like to try for a natural birth if possible and well fueled muscles could only help with that, right?

#2 Bel Rowley

Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:29 PM

I remember having similar thoughts prior to having my first baby. I also do a bit of running and ran my first half marathon the year before I became pregnant, so I was interested to see how the experience of labour compared to distance running. To be honest I found labour and birth easier than the half marathon! I do think being fit and preparing your body to give birth can help. I know there is a lot of luck involved too, but I believe that going into labour with my body well prepped was beneficial and I recovered well from both my birth experiences. As far as food/drink goes, I wasn't able to eat a thing while in labour. As soon as active labour started I vomited up anything I tried to eat. I did find myself craving Powerade, and drank a bit of it while in labour with my first. So yeah, I think you could be on to something.

#3 Boombox

Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:31 PM

I made a "labour-aide" from a recipe on the internet, and I swear it made my contractions more effective.

From memory it had lemon juice, honey, salt and a calcium + magnesium tablet crushed up. I made it up and froze it in advance, then when I left home for the hospital I got it out and sipped it as it defrosted. I had water as well, and would sip on the labour-aide when I felt I needed it. It would make sense that it helps with stamina- it has the sugar for energy, and apparently the magnesium helps in muscle function.



#4 Eirinn

Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:35 PM

Yup, look up labourade recipes  original.gif

#5 Bunsen

Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:37 PM

I drank powerade during labour - not sure if it was that or the 9 months of carb loading beforehand that got me through  tongue.gif

No idea if it's good for muscles etc but it is easy to drink without being sickly sweet and sits better in your stomach when your feeling a bit queasy so it worked for me.

#6 loubee

Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:47 PM

Sports drinks, yes Gels, no. I have enough trouble eating gels while running let alone in labour. They make me gag, blerk. Given you aren't moving (running)  you dont need something that is transportable, there are many other foods that would provide the same benefit. In an ultra marathon last year I ate a seed, nut & dark choc mix. It was fantastic.



#7 spersephone

Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:50 PM

When I've been in labour, I haven't wanted to eat anything.  I'm prone to throwing up while in labour, so anything I attempt comes back up again.

I do remember they said I was low in ketones, most likely because I hadn't eaten or drunk for about 12 hours by that time, but I went on to have my baby a couple of hours later, and my appetite came back afterwards.

#8 chocolatecrackle

Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:50 PM

There was a report last year of a woman who ran a marathon at 38 weeks and then gave birth the next day... I wonder if she got the 'birth is like running a marathon' message slightly confused wink.gif

I seem to remember that with gels you have to have water with them? I don't think it would be a good idea to have something that requires you to drink - just in case you can't manage it. Of course if you're induced, they'll be pumping you full of fluid anyway...

But yes, it does seem a reasonable idea. I thought about it, but the little I did drink came straight back up so it probably wouldn't have worked out for me.  The birth suite of the hospital I was at did supply lots of fruit juices and sugary soft drink, so there were some options, even if not the same as gels.

Actually, thinking back, I didn't actually feel that worn out from labour - just tired from no sleep in 48 hours. I don't think that any kind of sports supplement could help with that.

#9 liveworkplay

Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:53 PM

There is no way I could eat or drink anything but ice water during my labours. But I didn't particularly feel worn out, just tired from being a wake for so long. After my 26 hour labouor I had a cup of tea and a biscuit and my 5 hour one I was more hungry after and had sandwiches as well. During both I had all the supplies but ended up crunching ice chips.

#10 ReadySetRace

Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:58 PM

I tried during my first labour but vomited. Didn't bother trying with second labour but vomited up the previous meal anyway.

Worth a try definitely, but you may not be able to keep it down.

#11 Etcetera

Posted 02 May 2012 - 06:50 AM

I didn't eat during labour, just never had the urge, and they weren't very long labours.
I did have powerade which made a nice change from water!

#12 new~mum~reenie

Posted 02 May 2012 - 10:23 AM

I vomited up my dinner as soon as hard labour hit. I don't think my body liked the idea of digesting AND working my interns at the same time!! biggrin.gif

From (hazy, in the zone, memory) I just had sips of water when prompted. I think I should have had a juice box or something too, in hindsight. I was quite shakeu/woozy after labouring all night with no food to sustain me. After birth the student midwife made me a sweet Ovaltine and some honey toast while the me tucked me up on the couch with bub original.gif layer DH made me a staminade (i keep powder in the pantry - but that's the benefit of homebirth) and I perked up amd felt 'normal' by about 3 hours later. I, though, an nowhere as fit as you! original.gif

Good luck OP.

#13 Bluenomi

Posted 02 May 2012 - 11:21 AM

I'm a big fan of my food but did not want to eat or drink during labour. I made myself eat some breakfast in the early stages which all came back up again later and the midwife had to force me to drink water (which again came back up)

It's a great theory but a lot of woman can't handle anything in their stomach while labouring.

#14 lakurumau

Posted 02 May 2012 - 11:28 AM

I had powerade/gatorade (can't remember which) during my first labour and will be packing it in my hospital bag this time around too. I felt it definitely helped. Easily digestible, kept me hydrated, and we packed enough so that my husband could have a few sips too!

I remember having loads of energy after labour, despite not eating.

#15 sophiasmum

Posted 02 May 2012 - 01:29 PM

Really, the last thing I felt like doing was eating & drinking during labour, I was too focussed on what my body was doing.

#16 Shellby

Posted 02 May 2012 - 06:47 PM

I couldn't eat or drink during labour - with my first I brought dinner up and with my second I just didn't even feel like it, just wanted to labour and remembered how I threw up with my first and didn't want to do that again.

Really I didn't get physically exhausted, yes labour is hard on your stomach muscles but the rest of your muscles are fine so I think that helps you not get tried from that.

My second I wasn't that tried, exhausted or anything but I was induced in the morning, went into labour that afternoon and had Ben at 7, so I only had a normal day to deal with whereas my first I was sleepy, but my waters had broken 2-3 days beforehand so I had not been sleeping as I was excited and waiting for labour, didn't get induced until the late afternoon, no labour until 6pm and he was born at 2am - so it was more lack of sleepy tried than exhausted.

I say sure take it with you, my DH would have loved it and if you find like me you can't and don't want to drink during labour then at least your Dh can have something to keep him going.

#17 White-Lily

Posted 03 May 2012 - 09:56 AM

I made DH stop and get me powerade on the way to hospital. I drank half and threw it up not long after, along with everything else I had eaten that arvo/night. Not fun.

By all means, take it but it might not stay down.

I was tired after from being awake all night but not exhausted like I had run a marathon or anything. I was awake all day after being in labour all night and was felt fine after a shower and some lunch really.

#18 cloudstreet

Posted 03 May 2012 - 10:06 AM

I had a similar discussion with my DH recently. He's training for a marathon and I wondered whether the gels would help a labouring woman. Next time I think I will try! I didn't throw up during labour (but I had an induction/epidural so that probably changes things). Afterwards I found Gatorade really helpful.

#19 Cyaira

Posted 03 May 2012 - 06:53 PM

Thanks for all your replies! I'm so glad other people have thought similar thoughts.

It looks like sports drinks are definitely worth trying so I will do that for sure. I may try a homemade smoothie/labour-aid as well (freezing beforehand is a great idea!). I love how so many of your DHs played such an active support role.

I guess nobody knows how they will handle eating/drinking in labour (even between pregnancies?) but from the replies it seems like a common thing to not want to eat anything. But it seems worth a try, if not just for afterwards.

Thanks again



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