New Study Says Women Can Eat and Drink During Labor

Filed under: In The News

Pregnant women rejoice! You can now say sayonara to those mouth-numbing ice chips and hello to soda, cereal bars and Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream during delivery.

A new study says pregnant women with a low risk for complications during delivery can now have food and drink during labor. That's not permission to go whole-hog and scarf down an entire burrito, but the authors of the study from The Cochrane Library do state, "Women should be allowed to eat and drink what they want during labor."

For pretty much the last century, it's been standard hospital procedure to restrict food and beverage for women in labor. Only ice chips or teeny sips of water are normally permitted. This oral intake restriction can be traced back to the 1940s, when C-sections were performed under general anesthesia. Complications could arise if stomach contents were drawn into the lungs while under anesthesia, resulting in severe lung damage or even death. Over the years, obstetric anesthesia has become much more sophisticated. Plus, most women today receive local anesthesia for their C-sections.

Prior to the publication of this study, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) released a "Committee Opinion" in September 2009, stating, "Women in labor may be able to quench their thirst with more than just the standard allowance of ice chips." The ACOG release went on to say that any woman with a normal, uncomplicated labor may drink modest amounts of clear liquids such as water, fruit juice without pulp, sodas, clear tea, black coffee and sports drinks.

"Allowing laboring women more than a plastic cup of ice is going to be welcome news for many," said Dr. William H. Barth, Jr., chair of ACOG's Committee on Obstetric Practice, in the 2009 press release.

ACOG still recommends that women undergoing a planned C-section should have no solid food from six to eight hours prior to surgery.

"As for the continued restriction of food," Barth said in the release, "the reality is that eating is the last thing most women are going to want to do since nausea and vomiting during labor is quite common."

Related: Labor and Delivery - The Journey to Birth, Pregnancy: Week by Week

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.