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Study Finds Women Should Eat During Labor

The following post has been scheduled in advance. We are currently awaiting the arrival of our second child and details in this post may or may not be relevant at this time. 
Forget about chewing on ice cubes to keep yourself going during contractions. Contrary to what most medical officials have stated in the past, a recent Canadian study has found that women who are in labor actually benefit from eating a meal.  
By avoiding meals during labor, women are less likely to aspirate, or inhale liquid or food into their lungs, possibly causing pneumonia.  Today, advances in anesthesia care means “most healthy women are highly unlikely to have this problem today and when researchers reviewed the literature of hundreds of studies on the topic, they determined that withholding food and liquids may be unnecessary for many women in labor,” as noted in a press release. 

According to Christopher Harty, BN, co-author of the study, findings suggest a change in practice “makes sense.” 

He added: “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.This gives expectant mothers more choices in their birthing experience and prevents them from being calorie deficient, helping to provide energy during labor.”
A light meal that can be consumed by a woman in labor may include fruit, light soups, toast, light sandwiches (no large slices of meat), juice and water. 
Although most women lose their appetites during very active labor, researchers have found that they may continue to drink fluids such as water and clear juices. 
Weighing In On Previous Studies
After analyzing 385 studies focused on women who gave birth in a hospital, findings point to a correlation between the energy and caloric demands of laboring women and those of marathon runners. 
“Without adequate nutrition, women’s bodies will begin to use fat as an energy source, increasing acidity of the blood in the mother and infant, potentially reducing uterine contractions and leading to longer labor and lower health scores in newborns,” as noted in the press release. 
The studies also suggest that “fasting can cause emotional stress, potentially moving blood away from the uterus and placenta, lengthening labor and contributing to distress of the fetus.” 

Healthy women who are not at risk for aspiration consult with their medical care providers whether or not eating a light meal during labor is safe for them. 

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