As a doula, one of the hardest parts of my job is convincing the birthing person I'm working with to drink water. I often feel like a total nag because I'm constantly asking/reminding them to take "just one more sip".
Let's start by me telling you why I know they're not into drinking anything:
- To start, they're busy. They're occupied with their contractions. They're focusing, coping, managing, trying to stay mentally committed to the task at hand (and birthing a baby is an incredibly huge task).
- They're also uncomfortable. Their abdomen area is constantly contracting, there's pressure and tension and gulping down water might make it all even *more* uncomfortable. Baby is at its biggest and fitting anything else in the belly region just doesn't seem like a good idea.
- They also have spent the last __ months (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc) going to the bathroom incessantly. Some birthing people decide that they'd rather be a bit dehydrated than going pee every 8 minutes.. And now that they're in labour, there's even less of a desire to having to pee between every 2-3 contractions.
So when I start pushing the water/juice/honey sticks/cookies/etc., it comes from a place of understanding that one or all of the factors above are in play but I do it because staying hydrated is SO IMPORTANT.
Labour is harder and longer when you're dehydrated. Your body needs water, energy and fuel in order to do the incredibly hard work of labouring and birthing your baby. The body burns through so much glucose that if you're not keeping up with refilling the demands, soon it becomes depleted. And what brings glucose to your muscles? Water.
And think about an athlete: they're always drinking water on the sidelines, between plays, whenever they can. Even if you're not an athlete, think about when you're going to play sports with friends, hitting the gym or taking a group fitness class... you bring water. And if you forget to bring some, you probably stop and grab a water on the way or even turn around to quickly grab your bottle.
Dehydration causes body weakness, brain fog, muscles don't work as efficiently and it's distracting. During birth, being dehydrated can cause contractions that aren't at all useful. These contractions can be painful and uncomfortable but aren't actually even doing anything to soften or open the cervix.
Labour is a time where we really want to work with our bodies rather than against them. We work so hard to set some birth preferences, to find awesome and supportive care providers and create beautiful and calm birth environments, but the most important priority is you, your baby and your body.
So when your nurses, your doctors, your doulas or your partner ask you to *please* have just "one more sip" please know that we would drink all the water in the world if it could somehow hydrate you... but we can't. This is your labour, your story, your call but our hope (and we know) that one sip will make it just a little bit better in the long haul. Bottoms up!