Research Suggests Light Meal During Labor Could be Beneficial

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Current guidelines for labor and delivery rule out eating, but new research suggests it may be time for that to change.

According to a press release from the American Society of Anesthesiologists, findings from a new study suggest a small meal during labor could be good.

Women are advised against eating or drinking for fear they inhale food or drink into their lungs. Aspiration can lead to pneumonia.

Medical advances, in anesthesia in particular, make this situation unlikely, though. For example, there was only one instance of aspiration in the United States during labor and delivery from 2005 to 2013.

In the new study, researchers reviewed 385 studies dating back to 1990. They concluded avoiding liquids and food during labor could be unnecessary and that a light meal could actually provide the energy and calories required to get through labor. According to researchers, the requirements are similar to that of running a marathon.

Each individual should be assessed as such, but the “no eating” rule may not need to apply. Obstetricians and anesthesiologists can assess their patients for aspiration risk on a case-by-case basis.

If a patient is considered low-risk for aspiration, a small meal could be very beneficial to providing the necessary energy for labor. However, identifying them as “low-risk” is key.
In addition, aspiration becomes a larger concern in cases of Cesarean section because general anesthesia may be used.

This study’s findings are still considered preliminary.

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