Nourishing Foods for Labor and Childbirth (+ a recipe for Groaning Cake) (2024)

Giving birth is hard work.

It's good work – joyful, holy work even – but really, it's sweaty, grunty, focused, git-‘er-done kind of work.

And like any good work, it takes energy. Food is our fuel and – yes, while there is that time when you're about 8-9 centimetres dilated that you might possibly want to purge pretty much everything – it will serve you well to eat well early on in labor and to have a few easy items on hand in case labor goes long.

Early Labor: Eat & Drink While You Can

When labor starts, usually you've got a few hours before you no longer feel like eating, so use the opportunity to eat deeply nourishing foods that will fuel you for several hours. If you crave a certain food, eat it, as that's your body's way of telling you what it needs.

Here are a few ideas for foods to nibble at will through the first stage of labor. (Please share any others you love in the comments!)

Groaning Cake – Groaning Cake was typically made for after the baby arrived, both to give the mother strength in her recovery and to serve to visitors who came to visit the mother “in confinement.” I've tweaked the recipe fairly considerably to pack in as much nourishment as possible, to provide lasting energy during labor, and to make it easily portable. See our recipe at the end of this article.

Liver PâtéPâté has gotten a bad rap through the years, but when it's properly prepared, it's smooth and silky and addictively delicious. It's also rich with healthy fats and proteins that will give long, lasting energy and replenish the body with needed vitamins and minerals. The fats allow the food to be supplied to the body slowly (as opposed to the quick spike of sugar followed by an energy crash) and it is notably rich in iron, which is especially important during childbirth both to fight fatigue and to replenish iron stores due to blood loss. Try our delicious pâté recipes – our favorite for this occasion is Beef Liver Pâté with Red Wine and Herbs.

Nuts and Dried Fruits – These are easy to transport and provide both sugars and proteins for needed energy. Stock up on the kinds you like or find a trail mix without any additives.

Hamentaschen – These Jewish cookies made for the celebratory spring holiday, Purim, are perfect labor food. They're bite-size, easily portable, scrumptious, and they're basically like a dried-fruit-and-citrus energy bar in cookie form. See our popular hamentaschen recipe here.

Easy Foods as Labor Progresses

As labor progresses, you likely won't be as hungry, but there may come times – especially if labor progresses slowly – when you will want sustenance of some sort. This may be to give you a quick pick-me-up, to help combat nausea, or to quench deep thirst. I find it easiest to have liquid food at this stage, so you'll notice bone broth and miso soup top my list.

Beef Stock – A well-gelled beef stock will ease digestive troubles and may even help ease nausea due to its gelatin content. It is one of the most nourishing foods to have on hand at any time for any occasion, childbirth being no exception. Due to its deeply nourishing nature, it will provide good energy, mental focus, and help prepare the body for post-partum healing.

If you need the stock to be portable, make portable soup. First, chill the stock for several hours after you have removed the bones. Remove the solid layer of fat on the top, then return the stock to a large saucepan, bring to a simmer, and reduce it to about one-tenth of its original volume. Pour the thick stock into a flexible container, sprinkle liberally with sea salt, and leave to harden. Once it has solidified, slice it into 1-inch cubes, and carry those along. (They can stay at room temperature, so no worries about just tossing them in your hospital bag.)

To prepare, place one cube in a mug of boiling water and stir until dissolved.

Miso Soup – Miso is a traditionally fermented soybean paste that is very high in protein. Its flavor is salty and savory and because it's often packed in tubes or resealable pouches, it's very easy to pack in a bag and just stir into a mug of very hot water to make a broth.

I typically avoid soy products completely, but childbirth is one of the exceptions I make expressly for the ease of making a quick, protein-rich broth that I can sip as I desire. It is absolutely essential to use certified organic, traditionally prepared miso, however, so take your time to find good miso. (This brand is the one I use.)

If you'd like more vitamins or a bit of texture in your broth, bring along snack-size sheets of sushi-grade seaweed to crumble in (such as these organic ones).

Honey Sticks – If you feel your energy lagging after several hours of labor and need a pick-me-up, snip open a honey stick and suck the honey out – you'll feel revived quickly. Choose raw honey if possible, as it will also provide immunostimulants, which are important as baby and mother are sharing their first moments together at the breast, but if you can't find raw, don't sweat it – the real point is the shot of sugar to get you going. (Can't find honey sticks at your local natural health store? Find them here.)

Ginger Tea – If you suffer from nausea during labor as I do, you may find ginger tea a welcome remedy. You may even want to bring a raw, peeled ginger root with you to gnaw on – it's an overwhelming taste and sensation, but it tends to soothe the stomach and (anecdotally) stimulate labor. (And if you want to discuss nausea cures, one friend recently told me she swears by a washcloth dipped in ice water placed on the back of the neck. She says it works every time.) You can make ginger tea by pouring boiling water over freshly cut ginger root or find ginger tea bags here (there are several organic brands available).

Concentrated Raspberry Leaf Tea Ice Cubes – Raspberry leaf tea is wonderful for uterine care throughout pregnancy, and during labor it is especially so. The flavor is very refreshing and it can stimulate a tired uterus by assisting in reviving strong, productive contractions.

To make the tea, find raspberry leaves in bulk (don't bother with the premade tea bags – we're going for something much stronger). (You can find organic loose-leaf raspberry leaves at your local natural food store, at Amazon, or at Mountain Rose Herbs.) Place 2 cups of dried leaves and 2 quarts of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer gently for about 30 minutes or until it has reduced nearly by half. Strain out the leaves, stir in 1/2 cup raw honey, then pour into ice cube trays. Make the cubes quite small, as you will be eating these as ice chips.

Store the frozen ice chips in a resealable bag. If you labor at a hospital, place the bag in whatever freezer is set aside for patient use in the obstetrical ward and ask for them right when you want them.

Dark Chocolate – It may sound strange to have chocolate on a labor list, but if you find your energy flagging, a small piece or two of dark chocolate may be just the thing you're looking for. The small amount of sugar will give you an energy boost, the very small amounts of caffeine and theobromine serve as vasodilators, and the flavinoids will relax those same blood vessels and smooth muscles. These benefits will only come from dark chocolate, so the darker the better. (Theo is my absolute favorite! Swoon…)

Also, if chocolate is a comfort food for you, it may also help you to relax mentally. I always feel like my mind is reeling during labor and the moments when I actually relax and am able to focus become the most satisfying, productive, joyful parts of the birth, so anything that will help you relax mentally is a wonderful tool.

A Recipe: Groaning Cake

very loosely adapted from the novel The Birth House by Ami McKay

makes 1 bundt cake, 24 muffins, 2 9×5 loaves, or 4-5 dozen mini muffins

3 cups whole wheat or spelt flour, preferably sprouted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups peeled, grated apple (about 1 very large apple)
1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 large carrot, finely grated (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped dates or raisins (optional)
4 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree (or any other squash) – see how to make pumpkin puree
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled but still liquid
zest from 2 large oranges
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sucanat OR honey

Preheat oven to 350° and grease a bundt pan, muffin tins, or 2 9×5 loaf pans.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then stir in the grated apple. Stir in the nuts, carrots, and dates if using.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then stir in the squash, coconut oil, orange zest, molasses, almond extract, and sucanat. Whisk until smooth.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well. The batter should be quite stiff. If it's so stiff it's unable to mixed, however, stir in a bit of orange juice or milk. Scrape into your prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Approximate Baking Times

  • 15-18 minutes for mini-muffins
  • 22-26 minutes for muffins
  • 40-45 minutes for loaves
  • 1 hour 10 minutes – 1 hour 20 minutes for a bundt cake

Nourishing Foods for Labor and Childbirth (+ a recipe for Groaning Cake) (2024)


What is the groaning cake in the birth house? ›

“The tradition of a groaning cake, or kimbly, at birth is an ancient one. Wives' tales say that the scent of the groaning cake being baked in the birth house helps to ease the mother's pain. Some say if a mother breaks the eggs while she's aching, her labour won't last as long.

What foods are good for labor? ›

Consider having some good sources of protein on hand to eat during your labor. Greek yogurt, nut butter, protein shakes, and cheese will all go down easy and offer your body the protein it needs to help you through labor.

What is a birthing cake? ›

It is a traditional sweet loaf or round cake baked by labouring women. It is usually a spiced cake as it was believed the spices, which could be smelled while a person laboured, would ease the birthing person's discomfort.

What foods are good for inducing labor? ›

Spicy Foods, Sex & More: What Actually Helps To Induce Labor?
  • Spicy food. Perhaps one of the most well-known theories is that eating spicy food can bring on labor. ...
  • Prunes. ...
  • Walking. ...
  • Sex. ...
  • Dates. ...
  • Red raspberry leaf tea. ...
  • Castor oil. ...
  • Evening primrose oil.
May 2, 2022

What did the old woman feel about her cakes? ›

Saint Peter asked the old lady for a cake from her store of cakes. The very greedy woman did not wish to part with her cakes as she felt they were too large to be given away. So she made a small cake for him, but that too seemed too big to be given away.

What is the baby in the cake called? ›

A king cake, also known as a three kings cake, is a cake associated in many countries with Epiphany. Its form and ingredients are variable, but in most cases a fève ( lit. 'fava bean') such as a figurine, often said to represent the Christ Child, is hidden inside.

What food softens the cervix? ›

The proteolytic enzyme found in fresh pineapple, bromelain, can soften the tissue surrounding the cervix, but whether or not that could actually bring about labor remains to be seen.

What fruit helps with labor? ›

Here's a list of some foods that are purported to get labor going:
  • Pineapple. There's nothing quite as sweet as fresh pineapple. ...
  • Dates. The fruit of the date palm tree, dates are very nutritious. ...
  • Spicy food. ...
  • Prego pizza. ...
  • Maternity salad. ...
  • The “Inducer” pizza. ...
  • Eggplant. ...
  • Cupcakes.
Dec 22, 2020

What foods should you avoid during labor? ›

Foods to avoid during labor include rich foods such as large pieces of meat and heavy meals. Though rare, if aspiration does occur during labor, solid foods are more dangerous than liquids. Dairy and acidic beverages like juice should also be avoided because they can upset your stomach during labor.

Which cake is best during pregnancy? ›

Whole Wheat Cake

Opting for a cake made with whole wheat flour instead of refined white flour can provide more fiber and nutrients. Whole wheat cake can be just as delicious as traditional cake and offers added health benefits for pregnant women.

What cake to avoid when pregnant? ›

Excessive sugar can lead to a larger baby and potentially complicated delivery. Are there any cakes that are absolutely off-limits? Cakes with alcohol or raw eggs should be avoided.

Is it safe to eat cake after giving birth? ›

02/9What to avoid after childbirth

While certain foods are beneficial for new mothers, there are certain foods and habits that are a strict no-no at this stage. Firstly, mothers should avoid foods that are loaded with artificial sugars and refined carbs like sodas, cakes, burgers, and fried food.

What tea induces labor? ›

Chamomile tea is often suggested as an easy way to get your labor started.

Can eating bananas induce labor? ›

False. Evidence suggesting some foods, like spicy foods, pineapple and bananas may induce labor, is purely anecdotal. These foods may increase acid reflux – which is a common problem in the later stages of pregnancy – so you may want to avoid them.

How can I make labor come faster? ›

I recommend that you first get your doctor's permission before trying any of these methods as a way to induce labor.
  1. Exercise. ...
  2. Spicy foods. ...
  3. Sexual intercourse. ...
  4. Acupuncture and acupressure. ...
  5. Nipple stimulation to induce labor – discouraged. ...
  6. Castor oil to induce labor – highly discouraged and potentially dangerous.

What does the cake symbolize in Portal? ›

The promise of Cake is introduced by GLaDOS as an incentive for Chell to complete the test chambers in the original Portal. It is referenced in many of the Rattmann's dens as "a lie", sparking the internet meme "The Cake is a lie".

What is the significance of the cake in Portal? ›

It is in reference to the fact that an AI entity that guides Chell through the chambers, GLaDOS, promises cake as a reward if she accomplishes all of the test chambers. However, GLaDOS turns out to be duplicitous, and Rattman left the message as a warning.

Why did the lady make a little cake? ›

The miserly woman thought the cake she was preparing was too big to give away to charity, so she kneaded the dough again and created a smaller one, but she didn't have the heart to give it away either. Saint Peter is enraged by the woman's behaviour and curses her, turning her into a woodpecker.

What is the baby in the Louisiana cake? ›

Hidden in its interior, or under a slice, is a small plastic baby. Whoever finds it must either bring the next cake or throw a party, thus sparking an unending round of food and fun. Whether at the workplace, school or home - king cake is a gift that keeps on giving throughout the Mardi Gras season.

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