Do you believe you must fast during labor? According to this research, fast during birth may not be necessary. Here’s what you may consume if you’re considering eating during labor.
Labor is often not a pleasant experience; obviously, pain is involved, and you are typically instructed to fast during the process, so you may also have some hunger pangs.
A study of 70 years of research reveals that having a light lunch during the early stages of labor may not be risky. It may even be advantageous.
Michael Bautista, M.D., an associate professor at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, became interested in this topic after being asked why laboring mothers and fathers are instructed to fast.
“I realized I had no good response [to that question],” he stated. Therefore, Dr. Bautista formed a team of researchers to investigate whether or not fasting during labor is indeed important, and they discovered that the recommendation to fast during labor and delivery might be obsolete.
The Reason Behind Fasting During Childbirth
People have traditionally been advised to refrain from eating or drinking during labor due to the risk of aspiration, which occurs when food or liquid enters the lungs.
According to Dr. Bautista and his team, however, the risk of aspiration is modest in healthy, low-risk individuals. According to the research team, there was only one occurrence of aspiration during childbirth in the United States between 2005 and 2013, and the patient involved was at high risk.
Dr. Bautista explains, “In labor, a woman’s body expends the equivalent of the energy required to run a marathon.” Having glucose, sugar, or whatever to sustain their energy would be really beneficial.
What the Analysis of Studies Reveals
First, it is essential to realize that scientists cannot ethically conduct trials or studies on pregnant women that could potentially harm the pregnancy, which is why there is still so much unknown about pregnancy and childbirth.
Despite the potential risks associated with such a study, Dr. Bautista’s team reviewed 385 studies that tracked female birthing parents in hospital settings during labor and gave birth between 1990 and 2018.
Dr. Bautista and his team identified the following significant findings:
- Labor is comparable to running a marathon in terms of the calories and nutrients required to sustain energy.
- Fasting during labor encourages the body to use fat as an energy source, increasing blood acidity for both mother and child.
- Increasing acidity in the blood might inhibit uterine contractions, prolonging the duration of labor and decreasing the newborn’s health score.
- Fasting can emotionally influence a person, generating tension that diverts blood away from the uterus and placenta, prolonging labor and possibly causing stress on the baby.
- Those at low risk may consume small meals during the early stages of labor. By the time the final active stages of labor have reached their peak, the parent’s appetite is typically diminished or absent.
What to Consume During Labor
Obviously, it is still necessary to be mindful of what you consume, as scientific consensus on the reasons behind the rule remains divided.
Dr. Cynthia Wong, a professor of anesthesiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, explains, “The danger of aspiration is far lower than it was four years ago, but perhaps it’s because we don’t allow patients to eat.” However, Dr. Wong agrees that low-risk individuals may safely consume something light.
“I believe the data supports the notion that women can safely consume clear liquids during childbirth. I don’t believe there is much evidence to demonstrate that pregnant women can truly consume a full meal. It may be accurate, but it has not been thoroughly researched, “she asserts
Wong recommends consuming clear foods, such as gelatin, popsicles, broth, and clear juice. The following is what Dr. Bautista and his team recommended:
- Light Fruit Soups
- Light sandwiches on toast (no large slices of meat)
- Fruit juice and water
Dr. Batista further observes that the majority of expectant mothers lose their appetites during active labor, but they can still eat water and clear juices without risk.
Who Should Not Eat During Pregnancy?
In light of this, the specialists decided that some parents should abstain from eating during childbirth.
Erin Sprout, co-author of the study and a medical student at Memorial University, said in a news release from the American Society of Anesthesiologists, “some circumstances enhance a laboring patient’s risk of aspiration, which exceed the hazards of withholding feeding.” These include eclampsia, pre-eclampsia, obesity, and the use of opioids to treat labor pain, which delays stomach emptying.
This idea is echoed by Dr. Wong, who adds that the rules about fasting during labor have altered significantly. “I would say it was frowned upon a decade ago. There has been a major loosening of fasting policies during work over the past decade. If you ask the majority of anesthesiologists, they will likely answer that women are frequently permitted to drink, “she says.
According to Dr. Bautista, the answer to the question of whether or not a patient can consume solid foods during labor ultimately depends on the patient’s health and pregnancy. “Each patient should be evaluated individually,” he explains.
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