January 28, 2023

Can You  Eat During Labor— The Experts Explain 

Can You  Eat During Labor— The Experts Explain 

Think you have to fast while you’re in labor? According to this ʀᴇsᴇᴀʀᴄʜ, there might be no need to starve your way through delivery. Here’s what you can eat…

 Labor isn’t typically a pleasant experience—obviously, there’s pain involved and you’re usually asked to fast through the process, so you may experience a few hunger pangs as well. But ʀᴇsᴇᴀʀᴄʜ suggests eating a light meal while in labor might not be ᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀᴏᴜs. In fact, it may even be beneficial.

Michael Bautista, M.D., an ᴀssᴏᴄɪᴀᴛᴇ ᴘʀᴏFᴇssᴏʀ ᴏF ᴀɴᴇsᴛʜᴇsɪᴏʟᴏɢʏ at Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland in Canada, became interested in this topic when he was asked why women are told to fast during labor. He realized he didn’t have a good answer .  So Dr. Bautista assembled a team of ʀᴇsᴇᴀʀᴄʜᴇʀs ᴛᴏ sᴛᴜᴅʏ whether or not fasting during labor is truly necessary and present their findings at the American Society of ᴀɴᴇsᴛʜᴇsɪᴏʟᴏɢists’s annual meeting back in 2015.

What you should eat during labor

Of course, it’s still important to be ᴄᴀʀᴇFᴜʟ about what you eat, since science is still divided on the reasons behind the rule.

“The risk of aspiration is much lower than it was four years ago but maybe it’s much lower because we don’t allow people to eat,” says Cynthia Wong, M.D., professor of ᴀɴᴇsᴛʜᴇsɪᴏʟᴏɢy at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Still, Dr. Wong agrees that consuming something light is safe for ʟᴏᴡ-ʀɪsᴋ women.

“I think that the ʀᴇsᴇᴀʀᴄʜ supports that women can drink clear liquids during labor without ᴀᴅᴠᴇʀsᴇ ᴄᴏɴsᴇǫᴜᴇɴᴄᴇs. I don’t think there’s a lot of evidence out there to suggest that women can actually eat a whole meal while in labor. It might be true but it has not been well-studied,” she says. Wong suggests sticking to clear items—think jello, popsicles, broth and clear juice. Dr. Bautista and his team recommended low-fat items like fruit, toast and light soups as good sources of fuel for women in labor.

Who shouldn’t eat during labor

With that being said, the experts agreed that some women should avoid eating while in labor.

“Certain factors increase a laboring ᴘᴀᴛɪᴇɴᴛ’s risk of aspiration which outweigh the risks of withholding nutrition,” Erin Sprout, co-author of the sᴛᴜᴅʏ and a medical student at Memorial University, said in a news release from the American Society of ᴀɴᴇsᴛʜᴇsɪᴏʟᴏɢists. “These factors include ᴇᴄʟᴀᴍᴘsɪᴀ, ᴘʀᴇ-ᴇᴄʟᴀᴍᴘsɪᴀ, ᴏʙᴇsɪᴛʏ ᴀɴᴅ ᴛʜᴇ ᴜsᴇ ᴏF ᴏᴘɪᴏɪᴅs ᴛᴏ ᴍᴀɴᴀɢᴇ ʟᴀʙᴏʀ ᴘᴀɪɴ, ᴡʜɪᴄʜ ᴅᴇʟᴀʏs stomach emptying.”

Dr. Wong echoes this suggestion, adding that the rules sᴜʀʀᴏᴜɴᴅɪɴɢ Fᴀsᴛɪɴɢ during labor have changed quite a bit. “I would say it was considered a no-no ten years ago. Over the last ten years there’s been significant liberalization of the fasting policies during labor. I think if you ask most ᴀɴᴇsᴛʜᴇsɪᴏʟᴏɢists they will tell you that women are often allowed to drink,” she says.

Ultimately, the question of whether or not a patient can take solid foods during labor comes down to the particulars of that ᴘᴀᴛɪᴇɴᴛ’s health and pregnancy, according to Dr. Bautista. “Each patient should be looked at on a case-by-case basis,” he says.

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