I've got a client who is going to deliver her first baby in about three weeks. She was wondering if she should "carbo load" before her due date like she would prior to an athletic event. Has there been any research regarding that?
That's a great question! Labor has often been compared to a marathon as it can last as long as 24 to 48 hours. Just like in a marathon, a woman's body will benefit from the increased stores of muscle and liver glycogen during this "workout." It's important throughout pregnancy to be eating enough high quality carbohydrates as carbs are the baby's main food source. Women trying low carb, high protein diets may be jeopardizing their baby's health. A diet too low in carbohydrates during the latter stages of pregnancy can cause a state of ketosis, as the body turns fat in to glycogen. The result of ketones in the body can cause fetal distress and slowed labor. To build glycogen stores, encourage bread, pasta, crackers, potatoes and fruit. During the last trimester, make sure your clients have adequate intake of iron, vitamin D, protein, vitamin C and water. Baby will benefit from these nutrients as he is storing them for his first months of life and building vital muscle and tissue. Eating too much before labor can cause nausea or problems if a cesarean is needed. However, it is important to be well nourished as you probably won't want to or won't be allowed to eat during labor. During labor, your clients should be consuming more simple carbohydrates, which will digest easily and increase energy. Eat easy to digest complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables. Avoid spicy or fatty foods that will be hard to digest and irritating during labor. The reality is that your client doesn't know when she will go in to labor, and therefore, it is hard to plan. Encourage clients to eat well for as long as they feel comfortable.