A ton of my friends have been having babies in the last few years and though I’m not usually present for the happy occasion, I get to watch most of the action unfold on Facebook. In one of the posts, I was rather surprised to find that my friend wasn’t allowed to have anything to eat or drink during labor. I thought that there must be some medical reason for this, but it turns out that there may in fact not be any reason at all.

A large-scale analysis in The Cochrane Library has recently found no reason why women can’t have food or fluids during labor. Gillian ML Gyte, of the department of women and children's health at the University of Liverpool in the U.K, says that there is no reason why hospitals should have a no eating and drinking policy for women in labor, nor should they prescribe certain types of food or drink.

The analysis included five studies with 3,130 women participating in total. All of the studies included women who were at low risk of needing general anesthesia during labor. The researchers of the study compared the effects of labor with food and drink and labor without either. For women, three primary outcomes were reviewed and they consisted of the women’s overall satisfaction with giving birth, whether or not the women had a cesarean section, and if the women had a vaginal birth. For the babies, the primary outcomes that were reviewed were the infant’s blood glucose levels and their APGAR scores.

"Our study found no difference in the outcomes measured, in terms of the babies' wellbeing or the likelihood of a woman needing a C-section," said Gyte. "There is no evidence of any benefit to restricting what women eat and drink in labor."

In various cultures, eating and drinking during labor is a done for nourishment and comfort reasons. Also, many women feel anxious knowing they will be denied food for an extended period of time, especially in a time that will potentially be very stressful. Some hospitals that require certain foods or liquids to be consumed will likewise cause women anxiety and enhance their stress rather than relieve it.

The study emphasized that women should be allowed to make the choice to eat or drink or abstain from both during pregnancy. However, at the end of the analysis, the researchers said that more study would be beneficial to figure out effective nutrient and hydration strategies for women in labor to prevent dehydration.

Source: Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health (2013, August 22). Restricting food and fluids during labor is unwarranted. ScienceDaily.