To the relief of moms-to-be everywhere, new medical findings have prompted hospitals to lift the ban on snacking and drinking in the delivery room.
A research team out of Canada presented compelling evidence at the American Society of Anesthesiologists conference last month. Pulling data from 385 studies conducted over the past 25 years, the team concluded that women in labor would actually benefit from light snacking.
According to Dr. Christopher Harty, co-author of the study, women in labor expend the same amount of calories as marathon runners. Unlike marathoners, however, moms-to-be in the delivery room have been denied food and drink for fear they may aspirate – a fancy term for inhaling food or liquid into the lungs. Aspiration is particularly dangerous as it may lead to pneumonia.
Putting fears to rest
From their research, Harty and his team found that aspiration is no longer an issue with healthy patients. In the United States alone, the researchers unearthed only one case of an expectant mom aspirating during childbirth. This patient had several pregnancy complications, including obesity and preeclampsia.
“Our findings suggest a change in practice makes sense,” Harty said in a statement. “Physician anesthesiologists and obstetricians should work together to assess each patient individually. Those they determine are at low risk for aspiration can likely eat a light meal during labor.”
Why food matters
To boost endurance and fuel their incredible undertaking, marathon runners sip energy drinks and snack on protein bars throughout their journey. Without similar replenishment during the marathon that is labor, women may lose energy, undergo emotional stress – and even make their labors longer. How so? Fasting, the researchers state, may slow uterine contractions.
“[These new findings] give expectant mothers more choices in their birthing experience and prevent them from being calorie deficient, helping to provide energy during labor,” explained Harty.
What this means for you
Talk to your doctor or midwife about packing a light meal for delivery day. There’s no telling how long you’ll be in labor and a caloric boost may be just the fuel you need to get through it all. Many women lose their appetites during the throes of childbirth, but a small meal such as toast, crackers, or fruit may be a good option for you.