Health Team

Study: Eating, drinking during labor is OK

Posted January 25, 2010 11:14 a.m. EST
Updated January 25, 2010 6:27 p.m. EST

— A new study shows that women might not need to hold off on eating and drinking while giving birth.

Ulla Johnson, who is expecting her second son, said that thirst can make labor tough.

"I remember being so thirsty, and all they would let me have was ice chips," Johnson said.

A new study, though, shows that such an approach to labor isn't necessary, researchers said.

"There's no evidence of benefit or harm from restricting fluid or food intake during labor," said Dr. Kay Dickersin, director on the U.S. Cochrane Center in Baltimore.

Researchers studied approximately 3,000 women who were at low risk of needing a Caesarean section and were given some food and fluids during labor.

"Instead of labor and delivery being a jail where you can't eat or drink unless someone gives you permission, this new study shows that it's not dangerous," said Dr. Jacques Moritz, with St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York.

Those restrictions on eating and drinking can be loosened, researchers said, because fewer women need an emergency C-section under general anesthesia, which can cause problems if there is anything in the stomach.

"You'd have a tendency to vomit then if there were food or water inside," Moritz said. Any vomit could enter the lungs.

Most C-sections are now done with regional anesthesia, such as an epidural block.

Doctors cautioned that these findings don't mean that labor is a time for chowing down but, instead, for small amounts of food and drink.

Johnson said it's good to give women what their bodies need while giving birth.

"It obviously seems like a good idea," she said. "All they tell you is to hydrate all the time, and this is like you're running a marathon."