Most hospitals and birthing centers will advise you not to eat solid foods within 8-12 hours of being induced. You may be allowed limited clear liquids up until active labor begins. This is because induction can increase the risk of requiring a C-section, and having a full stomach could complicate emergency surgery if needed. However, some providers may allow a light meal up until 4-6 hours pre-induction. Talk to your doctor about their specific guidelines on eating and drinking before induction.
Can I eat before being induced?
Whether or not you can eat before being induced for labor depends on the policies of the hospital or birthing center where you will deliver. Many facilities instruct women not to eat solid foods within 8-12 hours of the scheduled induction time. This is because induction with medications like Pitocin increases the chances of needing an emergency C-section. Having recently eaten could increase the risk of anesthesia complications or aspiration if a C-section becomes necessary.
However, some providers may allow women to have a light meal up until 4-6 hours before the induction is scheduled to begin. This more relaxed approach recognizes that labor inductions often take a long time to kickstart contractions and active labor. Since most women will not require a C-section, it prevents unnecessary fasting.
In general, here are some guidelines on eating before an induction:
- No solid foods for 8-12 hours pre-induction – Follow your hospital or birth center’s guidelines. Many recommend stopping solids at midnight if being induced in the morning.
- Clear liquids may be allowed – This includes water, clear juice, black coffee, and tea. Some facilities allow clear broth.
- A light meal 4-6 hours pre-induction may be okay – Some providers permit toast, cereal, yogurt, juice, eggs. Avoid large fatty meals.
- Eat normally until active labor begins – A few hospitals let women eat as usual until contractions become regular and intense.
The bottom line is to follow the instructions provided by your healthcare team. Make sure you are clear on their policies about what you can eat and drink before arriving for induction.
Why can’t you eat before being induced?
There are a few reasons why hospitals and birth centers restrict eating before an induction:
Risk of emergency C-section
Inducing labor with medications like Pitocin or Foley bulbs increases the chance of needing an unplanned Cesarean delivery. Studies show induction nearly doubles the risk of C-section compared to spontaneous labor. Having food in your stomach could complicate an emergency C-section if the anesthesia causes vomiting or aspiration into the lungs. For safety, doctors recommend having an empty stomach before surgery.
Difficulty inserting epidural
Most women request an epidural for pain management during an induced labor. Eating shortly before arrival can interfere with proper epidural placement. The anesthesiologist may have difficulty inserting the catheter if your stomach is too full. There is also an increased risk of vomiting or regurgitation during epidural administration after a big meal.
Risk of aspiration during delivery
Rarely, food particles can be inhaled into the lungs during the pushing stage of labor, called aspiration. This is more likely if you throw up from the pain and physical exertion of childbirth after having a large meal. Not eating for several hours pre-induction reduces this risk.
Long latent phase
Induced labors often have a prolonged early phase before active labor starts. This latent period can take 12-18+ hours during which contractions are mild. You will likely become very hungry and thirsty if you cannot eat or drink anything during this lengthy waiting period. Allowing at least limited clear fluids can prevent dehydration.
Interference with monitoring
Frequent snacking can disrupt the fetal monitoring needed to ensure your baby tolerates induced contractions. You may need to be hooked up to IV fluids and continuously monitored for a significant portion of labor. Having an empty stomach minimizes interruptions for food and trips to the bathroom.
What can I eat during early labor before going to the hospital?
If you go into spontaneous labor at home before being admitted for induction, you can generally continue to eat light, easily digestible foods in early labor. Here are some smart options if labor starts on its own:
Soft fruits and veggies
Fruit cups, applesauce, steamed carrots, roasted squash, and other tender produce are easy to digest. They provide hydration and energy from natural sugars.
Soup, broth, and smoothies
Warm broths and blended soups go down easily without filling you up too much. Smoothies are great for hydration and nutrients.
Yogurt and kefir
Dairy products like unsweetened Greek yogurt and kefir are packed with protein, calcium, and probiotics. Avoid milk which can cause digestive upset.
Whole grain toast or cereal
Dry whole grain toast, crackers, or low-sugar cereal can give you an energy boost and fiber without being too heavy.
Scrambled, poached, or boiled eggs are an ideal protein source. Make sure eggs are fully cooked to reduce the risk of salmonella poisoning.
Nut butter sandwiches
Spread nut butter on whole grain bread for lasting energy. Opt for all-natural brands without added sugars.
Protein shakes or bars
Whey protein and nutrition shakes provide protein, calories, vitamins and minerals without needing digestion. Meal replacement bars are another smart choice.
Sip water, diluted juices, coconut water, decaf tea, and ice chips to stay hydrated in early labor. Avoid sugary sodas and drinks.
What should you eat the day before induction?
What you eat in the 24 hours leading up to induction can help optimize your energy levels going into labor. Here are some healthy options for the day before:
Go for whole grains like oats, brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat pasta or bread. They provide long-lasting fuel.
Meats like chicken, fish, eggs, and plant-based proteins give you staying power. Avoid fatty cuts of meat.
Fruits and veggies
Eat a rainbow of antioxidant-rich produce like berries, melons, leafy greens, and broccoli. They pack nutrients without bloating.
Sip on this mineral-rich broth which is easily absorbed. It provides hydration and nutrients.
Nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil help meet your calorie needs and satisfy hunger.
Kefir, yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha replenish beneficial gut bacteria. A healthy gut aids digestion.
Lentils, beans, peas, and chickpeas give you a nutritional boost of plant-based protein, fiber, and iron.
Sip calming herbal blends with chamomile, mint, and red raspberry leaf to prep your body for labor.
Avoid spicy or greasy foods the day before induction that could lead to GI upset and bowel issues. Stick to easily digestible whole foods.
Are protein shakes allowed before induction?
Most hospitals allow you to drink protein shakes before labor induction, within the recommended timeframe. Protein shakes provide hydration and nutrition without requiring significant digestion.
Whey and plant-based protein powders mixed with water, milk, or fruit are generally permitted up until 6-12 hours pre-induction depending on your provider’s guidelines. Avoid large, dense smoothies with yogurt, nut butters, and other thick ingredients closer to go-time.
Benefits of a protein shake before induction:
- Provide energy and keep blood sugar stable
- Supply protein for strength and stamina
- Are easily digested and absorbed
- Hydrate better than water alone
- Don’t take up much room in your stomach
Look for a high-quality protein powder with about 20-25 grams of protein per serving. Whey, pea, egg white, hemp, and collagen proteins are all good choices. Opt for unsweetened flavors. Pair your shake with fruit instead of sugary juices or smoothie blends.
Protein is vital for getting through the marathon of childbirth. Clear protein shakes let you refuel without overfilling your stomach before induction.
What happens if you eat before being induced?
Although it’s not recommended, some women may end up eating solid food closer to induction time than advised. So what happens if you eat right before being induced? Here’s what you can expect:
- You may experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea when labor contractions begin. The powerful Pitocin-induced contractions can cause gastrointestinal distress on a full stomach.
- Your providers will likely make you wait before inserting the IV and starting the induction medications. They want time for your stomach to empty some.
- You’ll need to be closely monitored for complications like aspiration or breathing food particles into your lungs.
- The anesthesiologist may delay placing your epidural if you arrive full. A full stomach increases the risks of the procedure.
- If an emergency C-section becomes necessary, you are at higher risk for anesthesia-related complications due to having recently eaten.
- You may be extremely uncomfortable, hungry, and thirsty since you cannot eat again until after delivery. This can negatively impact your labor progress and stamina.
While a light snack a few hours before induction may be allowed, it’s best to follow your medical team’s recommendations on fasting. Arriving with an empty stomach can help your induction go more smoothly and prevent complications.
Can I drink water before being induced?
Drinking clear fluids before labor induction is generally encouraged, even when solid foods must be avoided. Staying hydrated can help strengthen and regulate contractions.
Here are some guidelines on drinking water and clear liquids before induction:
- Water – Drink to satisfy thirst up until you are admitted and hooked up to IV fluids. Once induced, oral intake is usually restricted.
- Clear juices – Apple, cranberry, and other transparent juices are usually permitted until active labor begins.
- Popsicles and ice chips – These provide hydration without filling your stomach near go-time.
- Black coffee and tea – Take these unsweetened until about 6-12 hours pre-induction depending on provider guidelines.
- Clear broth – Some hospitals allow beef or chicken broth with no solid bits until a few hours before arriving.
- Electrolyte drinks – Clear sports beverages like Gatorade replenish electrolytes and provide calories for energy.
The key is choosing fluids that won’t leave solid residual in your stomach. Don’t guzzle water right before going in but do drink to satisfy thirst leading up to induction. IV fluids will take over once labor is underway.
What snacks can I eat before being induced?
If your provider allows light snacking before induction, these are some of the best options:
Fresh or dried fruit
Fruit provides hydration, nutrients, and energy from natural sugars. Grapes, apples, banana, melon, and berries make easy pre-labor snacks.
Yogurt and cheese sticks
Dairy foods like Greek yogurt, string cheese, and cottage cheese give you protein, calcium, and probiotics without heavy digestion needs.
Nuts and nut butter
Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and seeds offer plant-based protein, healthy fats, and fiber for lasting energy. Look for all-natural nut butters without added sugars or oils.
Popcorn or rice cakes
These light, airy snack foods provide whole grain carbs without weighing you down. Choose low-salt or natural flavors.
Protein or granola bars
Look for bars with about 5-10 grams of protein and natural ingredients like nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and oats. Avoid chocolate or candy-coated versions.
Smoothies or protein shakes
Opt for unsweetened shakes and smoothies made with protein powder, milk or yogurt, and fresh fruit. Limit citrus fruits and leafy greens which can cause gas.
Whole grain toast
One piece of lightly buttered whole wheat or multigrain toast is an easy pre-labor fuel source.
Aim for small portions of foods that pack nutrition without requiring prolonged digestion. Complex carbs, lean protein, fruits and veggies are all good options before induction.
Can I drink coffee before being induced?
Many providers allow a cup of regular coffee with cream or milk in the hours leading up to induction. Coffee’s diuretic effect can help eliminate any food still in your stomach and bowel.
Caffeine in moderation is generally considered safe before labor. Studies show it does not restrict blood flow to the placenta or impact fetal heart rate patterns.
Here are a few guidelines on drinking coffee before induction of labor:
- Limit to 1-2 small cups in the 6-12 hours pre-induction.
- Avoid adding extra sugars and sweet flavorings.
- Opt for black coffee or add just a splash of milk, cream, or non-dairy creamer.
- Caffeinated coffee stimulates the bowels which helps empty your stomach.
- Stay hydrated by pairing coffee with equal amounts of water.
- Stop drinking coffee once you’re admitted and the induction begins.
While most providers allow a small coffee, check with your doctor about any personal restrictions. Avoid drinking pot after pot of coffee, energy drinks, or sweet coffeehouse beverages before going into labor.
Policies about eating and drinking before induction vary by provider and facility. Most recommend avoiding all solid food for 8-12 hours pre-induction since the medications used increase risk for an unplanned C-section. However, some may allow a light meal 4-6 hours before arrival or clear liquids until labor begins.
Talk to your doctor beforehand about their specific guidelines. Be sure to follow their instructions closely to reduce complications if a C-section becomes necessary. Stay well hydrated with water, clear juices, broths, ice chips, and other fluids up until active labor gets underway. Arriving for induction on an empty stomach can help progress labor smoothly and safely.