Hydration during labor is very important. Hydration in labor feels good. Hydration in labor keeps us safe. Hydration in labor nourishes baby. Hydration in labor prevents complications. Hydration in the form of commercial sports drinks... meh, not so good.
So, what's the alternative? Fortunately, there are a lot of natural commercial drinks available, but they can be pricey. Furthermore, the key is to go into labor already well hydrated, with a little bit of puffiness that you've been building up for the last weeks. No, of course we don't want excessive swelling, but our ability to retain water at the end of pregnancy is a very good thing. We basically build up our own IV fluids so we don't have to have actual IV fluids during labor.
Getting moms to actually be as hydrated as they should be is a different story. Nevermind the scorching hot environments many women experience where no matter how much fluids we built up during pregnancy, we're going to need to replenish them a whole lot more and may add a little extra elecrolyte balance in with nutrients and added natural salts. An herbal laboraide drink is super inexpensive to make, fun, and if you get some really cute silicon molds, you can make absolutely gorgeous ice cubes that you simply want to use just because they make you happy. Score for #TheOxytocinMethod.
I love this drink so much my kids and I make it as a summer picnic tea. It is gentle like that. This labor herbal electrolyte tea packs a powerful nutritive punch full of natural Vitamin C, but gentle enough to soothe cramps and calm a laboring mother.
Hibiscus is the beauty in this blend. This is what gives the breathtaking wine color that few herbal plants can create, which also has a lovely tang when unsweetened. It can also resemble a nice herbal fruity drink with a smidge of whole leaf stevia or honey added. Oh my YUM.
Nutritionally, hibiscus is an excellent source of Vitamin C and antioxidants including anthocyanins (the flavonoid that gives blueberries their brain-boosting benefits). Evidence also suggests it is beneficial at lowering blood pressure, making it a wonderful drink for the immune system and perinatal health.
RED RASPBERRY LEAF
We all know Red Raspberry Leaf. It has been used for centuries during the childbearing years. Red Raspberry Leaf has a mild herbal flavor and provides many nutrients required for muscle function including iron, magnesium, Vitamin C, and other minerals that make uterine contractions efficient (as do all nutritive foods).
Strawberry leaf, like Red Raspberry Leaf and all the other plants in the rose family, is high in fragarine. This is the chemical thought to provide Red Raspberry Leaf with its labor-supportive abilities. As herbalists, we know it is so much more than one constituent. Strawberry leaf is high in Vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and other minerals and flavonoids.
Nettles, like all dark leafy greens, packs a powerful nutritive punch. While nettles is normally my go-to, because of its strong herbal flavor, we can use a little less of it in this blend and let the other herbs shine through. A little goes a long way with nettles and it is wonderful for supporting anemic mothers, and is high in Vitamin K, so a wonderful herb to have on hand in case of hemorrhage.
Lemon balm is very gently calming. It is a common child's-herb, and as such, works beautifully for a laboring mom to calm the muscles without slowing anything down unnecessarily. We know a tight cramped muscles doesn't contract well, even though it is in a somewhat constant state of flexion. A muscle needs to be smooth and flexible to remain strong, and lemon balm gives us just that. It can help to balance the emotions of a laboring mom and has a very slight lemon flavor that blends well with these other laboring herbs.
These herbs are blended up along with either whole leaf stevia (yes, the whole leaf, not the extracted white stuff or drops) or good raw honey. The sweetness makes this really enjoyable to sip on without being distracting. The whole blend is light, just a touch of flavor is all we need. Alternatively, honey makes a great energy boost when mom just needs to keep on going but its not really a great time to nap. A pinch of Pink Himalayan sea salt helps with hydration as a well rounded electrolyte drink.
Transformaide Herbal Electrolyte Drink
2 Parts Hibiscus Flower
1 Part Red Raspberry Leaf
1 Part Strawberry Leaf
1 Part Nettle Leaf
1 Part Lemon Balm
Whole Leaf Stevia or Honey to taste (optional)
Pinch of Pink Himalaya Sea Salt per cup of water
Blend all the dried herbs together. Use 1 tablespoon per cup of water, or 1/4 cup of the herb per quart of water. Pour just-simmering water over the herbs, cover, and let steep at least 10 minutes. I recommend making this in a 1 quart jar with a drinking lid screwed on top. Once this is steeped it can be drank as is, or poured into silicon ice cube trays and frozen. They can be eaten as ice cubes, or ice pops, or popped into a glass of water for a light flavor.
The ice cubes make a great addition to your labor bag no matter where you're birthing. You can freeze them days (weeks) in advance and seal them up in a really good insulated carrier and just pop them in your labor bag when you're off to the hospital (or for doulas, when you go to meet a client).
So, grab a cup... or a quart jar... and let's have a drink!