You may already know that eating in labor is a big no-no here in- as in most industrialized countries. However, you may not know why...
What you do know is to expect an IV in labor...no drinks and certainly no food. So let's discuss the facts and the myths of this practice.
Eating and Drinking in Labor
Historically, women have always been advised to eat and drink during labor as long as they could and were able to do so.
So what is the thought behind not eating in labor?
Well, simply put the concern was in case you had to be put under general anesthesia. The fear was that if you vomited you could maybe potentially aspirate food into your lungs.
The facts are:
1) This level of risk is minimal and even more so since - even if you need a c-section - general anesthesia are no longer favored. Most women would receive an epidural instead.
2) Anesthesiologists are well trained and know how to avoid such an incident from occurring.
3) This line of thinking is faulty from the start since your stomach is never truly empty as it always contains gastric juices.
4) Prolonged fasting increases the amount of in your stomach which can in turn increase the complications with aspiration.
5) We would not call "good science" to make recommendations on only one study done 60 years ago.
Eating in Labor: Why is it Good for You?
1. Eating small amounts of easily digested foods during labor can give you the energy you need to keep going. We would not think of starving an athlete before a performance now would we? Labor is equivalent to a 50 mile hike!
2. In 1989, a Birth Center study including 11,814 women 22% of whom had a c-section, none of them aspirated even though they were allowed to eat and drink at willduring labor.
3. Being able to eat and drink during labor gives you a sense of control which is very important to your emotional well being.
4. Midwives and doulas know that if your labor is not progressing, often eating and drinking during labor helps to get things moving.
Eating in Labor: Latest Research
Professor Andrew Shennan at King's College in London felt that five previous trials on "eating in labor" were inconclusive...so he decided to do his own research.
He concluded that eating in labor did not affect delivery rates, but let's look at this research more closely.
Dr. Shennan's study took place at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in London between June 2001 and April 2006 and it involved 2,426 healthy women, having their first baby.
The mothers were randomly split into an "eating in labor" group or a "water only" group. The eating group was advised to eat small regular amounts of food, such as bread, biscuits, fruits, low fat yogurt, isotonic drinks, and fruit juice.
The mothers in the water only group were advised to have ice chips and water only.
Note: In most American hospitals, you do not even have a choice of water or food since you will be hooked to an IV. Keep on reading to see that IVs cause more harm than good and that given a choice, water - or even ice chips - is a much safer choice!
Age, ethnicity, food intake for six hours before and during labor, vomiting and the need for intravenous fluids were recorded.
The researchers felt that according to their results eating was not detrimental.
Eating in Labor: IV use in Labor
If you give birth in a hospital, you should expect to be hooked to and IV in labor. The fluid you receive from an IV is supposed to compensate for the lack of food and water...it is also used to facilitate the administration of various drugs including pitocin. If you want an epidural...an IV is mandatory.
What fluids go into your IV? Well, to put it simply: water and sugar.
This is such a mixture which presents a hazard for you as well as for your baby.
Usually the sugar that is used in an IV is called Dextrose. So what is Dextrose? It is often used to replace glucose and it is a refined sugar which has been known to have nasty side effects:
Dextrose is known to rapidly elevate your. As with any refined sugars, at first, it will cause an energy boost followed by a rapid drop in blood sugar as your body tries to go back in balance. To compound this problem, you do not receive Dextrose just once but continually during the of your labor which according to Drs. Abrahamson and Pezet and their research creates havoc on your body.
My IV will contain sugar in the form of glucose...so it's okay...right?
We'd love to say yes and put your mind at easy but this is not the case.
Studies comparing laboring mothers who were allowed to drink versus mothers who received an IV in labor showed that IV use in labor causes a fluid overload.good situation as it can lead to:
Cardiac arrhythmia - irregular heartbeat
Pulmonary edema - fluid in the lungs
There is more...since IV fluids are just sugar with no protein...a laboring mom can experience a"negative nitrogen balance" which is a condition of starvation and therefore not a good thing.
Yes, there is still more: in a study 11.4% of the IVs were colonized with bacteria ...so receiving an IV in labor increases your chances of infection. This is very scary because little germs that can survive in a hospital environment are known to be very very bad and in some cases deadly.
If this was not bad enough, studies have shown that these "sugar cocktails" reduce a mother's pain tolerance levels!!! And who wants that?IV use in labor also affects your ability to move which in turn affects the speed and the quality of your labor.
Eating in Labor: The Risk of an IV to your Baby
These are the risks to you...but that is not all. Your baby is also at risk:
Hypoglycemia after birth - low blood sugar
Increased chance of jaundice at birth