In Labor? Bring on the Food!

Suzanne Murray
16
plate of food

Photo by RanaAurora

You learn all kinds of weird things the first time you're pregnant. For instance, one of the only things I learned during my childbirth class is that many hospitals don't allow women to eat or drink anything while they're in labor.

That seemed so odd to me—and contrary to all the stiff I'd been reading in childbirth books. Now, a new study says it is weird (well, not in those words exactly) and that there's no need for pregnant women to fast during labor.

The review of research, done by the Cochrane Collaboration (an international organization that evaluates medical research) shows no evidence of harm in allowing women who are at low risk of needing anesthesia to eat or drink during labor—if they want to.

Standard hospital policy for many decades has been to limit a laboring woman's intake to tiny sips of water or ice chips. These rules came into play in the 1940's when doctors feared that if a woman had to be given general anesthesia for a c-section, she might inhale regurgitated liquids or food particles that could lead to pneumonia and other lung damage. But researchers say anesthesia practices have changed for the better since the 1940s, with more use of regional anesthesia and safer general anesthesia.

The Cochrane review acknowledge that a lot of women may not even want to eat or drink during labor, but many women just don't like the idea of the restriction—knowing they can if they want to relaxes them.

The review did not assess the risks of eating and drinking for women with a higher risk of needing anesthesia. If you're one of them, the bans on eating and drinking may still apply. Talk to your doctor.

Did you eat or drink during labor? Did you have the desire? Would you stress out if you were told you couldn't eat or drink anything?

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