Monday, February 25, 2008

Eating During Labor

Until the 1940's, women were actually told to eat and drink as they desired during labor. All of that changed in 1949, when 1 study showed that women who ate during labor had a higher chance of aspiration (food entering the lungs during anesthesia.) Since then, women have often been told that as soon as they feel contractions or think they are in labor, they should stop eating.

There are several reasons why this study, done nearly 60 years ago, should no longer apply to women in labor today:

1. The original study was based on very high amounts of anesthesia, which are no longer used on women during cesarean births.
2. Fasting during labor does not guarantee an empty stomach.
3. The risk of aspiration only occurs with general anesthesia, which is used very rarely for cesareans.
4. Prolonged fasting increases the amount of hydrochloric acid in your stomach which can increase the complications with aspiration.
5. It is not good to base recommendations for practice on one study, especially given that this particular study is extremely outdated.

Arguments made for eating during labor include:

1. Eating small amounts of easily-digested foods during labor can give you the energy you need to keep going.
2. A 1989 National Birth Center study showed that 11,814 women who ate and drank at will during labor did not have a single case of aspiration, even among the 22% of women in the total group who required a cesarean.
3. Sometimes the knowledge that you can't eat during your labor can affect your sense of control. That alone might make you feel like giving up sooner.
4. Often midwives and doulas report that if a mother's labor is not progressing, often eating and drinking during labor helps to get things moving.

Read the rest of this article here.


Pam and Anders said...

I would have given my left arm for a glass of water and food of any type!! Too bad the hospitals don't read this blog. :)


Sheridan said...

So TRUE! This is one of the routines that I think is so antiquated! I posted some other studies to look at on my blog. I think I referenced this article as well!

Amanda said...

I think it's silly to let any hospital nurse or policy dictate what a woman can or can't eat during labor. What are they going to do? Throw you out?

Personally, I ate a wee bit early during labor (despite policy), but as labor progressed I didn't even think about food. Had I wanted to eat, I would have. They can't stop you from eating, esp. if you have labor support in the room supplying the food! :)