After caring for many women in early labour it often strikes me how the small self-care details can be neglected, especially when women labour at home during the night.

Keeping well hydrated and nourished is vital for numerous reasons;

  • If a woman is dehydrated then the tissues of her body are too and hence less elastic
  • Her available energy stores are depleted and she therefore needs to break down body fat, which results in ketones being produced
  • Ketones (which we can pick up by doing a routine urine test) make the heart rate increase, the baby’s heart rate become tachycardic and soon she starts to feel nauseous, followed by vomiting if the level of ketones rises higher
  • The uterus needs to be ‘fuelled’ to do its work – that is to contract and relax repeatedly. Hence, her contractions may not establish effectively
  • Dehydration can give symptoms such as fatigue, headache, dizziness, dry lips & mouth – none of which are helpful in labour!

Drinking water will re-hydrate you but it will not give your baby any useable calories or energy. By simply adding a couple of tablespoons of honey, dissolving it is some hot water and making it up to a jug of tepid honey water, will work wonders in meeting your body’s needs for energy and hydration. On one Birthing Unit I worked on we called this drink our ‘Magic Juice”!

Also remember that each time you pass urine you can check your hydration level; if your pee looks like champagne you are doing a perfect job. If it looks a darker shade of yellow then you have work to do in bringing your body back into balance so that it can work more effectively and comfortably.