Foods for baby-birthin’ and why they might work (or not)

By the time you read this, I should, by all rights, be a happy, sleepy, mother of three. Right now, though, I’m 40 weeks and two days pregnant, which some of you family-type readers may recognize as “two days overdue.” That’s only sort of true; a baby’s due date is more properly known as an EDD or estimated due date. It’s not like a stamp on a library book or a warning on a package of ground beef. An EDD is an approximation, and there’s a two-week range on either end during which most women deliver perfectly healthy babies with no more trouble than they would if they had had them right on the 40-week mark.

Still and all, while there’s no reason to worry about being a few days late to the party, I wouldn’t mind having this baby, oh, right about now. Being very pregnant gets tiresome. I keep bumping into doorways and cabinets and people with my gut. I always have food on my shirts, and I can’t wash the dishes without soaking whatever I have on as I try to reach past my enormous belly and into the sink. My awesome birth attendants have other clients, and I’d like to be able to leave a little space for rest between my kiddo’s birth and someone else going into labour. Midwives need sleep, too. And, most of all, I would kind of like to meet this little person who has been doing advanced breakdance moves in my gut for what seems like ages.

Now, most women who have had babies will suggest to you all kinds of foods you should eat to help kick-start labour. I have two theories about this business. First of all, when you’re ready to go into labour, you’ll try a hundred things, and then whatever you were doing when you started having contractions will be known as “the one thing that worked” forevermore. Anyone else might recognize it as coincidence, there might be no scientific evidence to back up your claim, but that doesn’t matter. “Oh, yeah, a family-sized Fruit & Nut bar. But you have to eat it while standing on one foot and listening to Johnny Cash. Totally works. I swear by it.”

Second, though, is that when you’re at that point, any and all claims will be considered, so long as they’re not clearly dangerous or overly gross (actually, some people have eaten some pretty gross things in pursuit of contractions). I don’t really care if pineapple has been scientifically proven to cause an enzymatic reaction that moves things along, dammit, I’ve got a pineapple sitting on my counter and I’m going to eat it. I don’t care that there’s no real evidence to support the idea that spicy food might induce labour; if this baby’s not out by tomorrow, it’s Indian take-out for supper at my house.

When I had my son, it was after one of those longish, start-and-stop labours. Eager to get out of the “stop” phase and back into “start” mode, I followed a friend’s advice and ordered some “bad Chinese food.” Apparently, it has to be “bad Chinese food,” not the wholesome, perky stuff, resplendent with fresh bean shoots and gorgeous greens. We’re talking oily noodles and bits of chicken, battered (or bashed) and fried and drenched in some kind of fluorescent, sugary sauce. The kind that seems like a brilliant idea at the time, but that almost always results in instant gastric regret.

So, did it work? Well, I went right back into labour, but really, I would have done that eventually. It certainly wasn’t a quick fix, as it took another fourteen hours for the youngster to finally make his bid for freedom, but who knows? Maybe the oily noodles were exactly what my body needed to soldier on. They sure were delicious.

As for tonight, my husband is making lasagna, some to eat and some to put in the freezer for the weeks to come. Then I’m tucking into that pineapple, and perhaps hiking up and down Alexander Street a few times, then… anybody have a trampoline?


Foods for baby-birthin’ and why they might work (or not)

All of these are, of course, completely anecdotal. Chances are that hours before you’re about a baby is not a great time to eat a lot of foods that don’t agree with you, so if you know for sure that a big plate of lasagna is going to give you killer heartburn, you might want to leave that alone.

Hot, hot, hot.
“Eat spicy foods” is a classic suggestion, although who knows whether it really works? And what if you’re from a culture where all the food is spicy? I’ve read that chili-pepper-laden foods might actually make delivery more difficult because the chemicals they release in your body interfere with the release of endorphins, and you want lots of endorphins. Who to believe? The North American diet is, generally, pretty spice-free, so perhaps for most people spicy food should fall under the next category.

Food that makes you feel gross.
This would include the mythic “bad Chinese food,” greasy fast food in general, anything that would cause a, shall we say, unpleasant gastric reaction. At risk of being indelicate, the theory behind this one is that whatever gives you gut cramps will also start contractions. Makes about as much sense as anything else, and there’s a good chance you don’t feel like cooking anyway.

Pineapple and other tropical fruits.
Pineapple and papayas and kiwis have enzymes that aid digestion and that do all kinds of other good things for you, so it could well be that they encourage babies to move out, too. Definitely worth a try.

Since one of the most important things to remember when you’re having a baby is to relax, I would think that any meal where you share a few laughs and enjoy your food is going to help. Oh, and don’t forget to drink lots of water.


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