One of the things your doctor will advise when preparing for D-day is not to eat or drink when you’re in labor. Some preggos follow this rule to the letter because they assume it will make them do a number two (poop in baby lingo) as they push the baby out.
The reason there’s a “no food or drink during labor” policy is that of the danger of aspiration. While you labor, you might inhale food into your lungs if you require anesthesia for an emergency C-section delivery. The concern that you might asphyxiate brought about the food prescription for ice chips, even if you were super hungry.
However, a new review has found that for women with a healthy and low-risk pregnancy, eating during labor could make giving birth easier and faster. Our immediate response: Hooray!
Researchers at the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia analyzed 10 different studies that monitored almost 4,000 women during labor. None of the pregnant women were carrying multiple babies, and they were not at risk for having a C-section. One group of pregnant women had something to eat during labor, while the other group munched on ice chips. We found the results overwhelming.
The study discovered that women who were allowed to eat before delivering their baby had shorter labor hours by an average of 16 minutes than those who only had ice chips. While the pain tolerance varied from one person to another, that’s still a quarter of an hour of not having to feel the painful birth contractions.
The researchers warned that the study does not prove eating real food was what caused the deliveries to speed up. “We don’t know how much if anything people can eat or drink in labor,” senior study author Dr. Vincenzo Berghella told Reuters. However, he also suggested that if pregnant women were “well hydrated and have adequate carbohydrate” in their bodies, their “muscles work better.” Yes, including the uterus, an organ made mostly of muscles.
The study also found that eating during labor does not increase the risk of developing a complication, such as vomiting and choking when using general anesthesia. In fact, two years ago, the American Association of Anesthesiologists (ASA) released a statement based on a study, saying that most “healthy women would benefit from a light meal during labor.”
“Improvements in anesthesia care have made pain control during labor safer, reducing risks related to eating,” the ASA statement read. “Most healthy women are highly unlikely to have this problem today.”
That said, it’s essential to talk this issue with your doctor when making your birth plan. The study only covers low-risk pregnant women, so women who have pregnancy complications or highly likely to deliver via C-section might need to stick to water and ice chips. The The American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists (ACOG) still recommends fasting for 6 to eight hours before a possible emergency operation.
If you get a go-ahead from doctor to eat while in labor, don’t overdo it. Food high in fat can make feel sick and heavy in your stomach, and sugar offers only temporary energy boost. Go for carbs as they’re full of energy and easy to digest. ASA lists the foods that pregnant women in labor could eat: fruit, light soups, toast, light sandwiches (no large slices of meat), juice, and water. If you’re the type who loses their appetite during active labor, it’s important to drink plenty of water or clear juices still to keep you hydrated.