Eating during labour may speed up birth for low-risk mums

Posted in Birth.

Swipe right for Uber Eats in the delivery room, mums! A recent study review says that eating during labour might actually be beneficial to birthing mums.

Fries with that?

As you probably know, the current convention for most labouring mums is to avoid ingesting any food during labour.

This is a cautionary measure, established back in the 1930s, in case a general anaesthetic is required. (Snacking was originally considered to pose a risk of vomiting or inhaling food under general anaesthesia.)

A research team have just reviewed existing data on 3982 labouring women from 10 different studies.

The women studied were considered to have low-risk pregnancies, meaning they were not delivering by c-section and were having only one child.

What the team found was that the women who ate during labour seemed to have more efficient labours than the exclusively ice-chip chomping mums.

Mumfort eating

The research looked at labouring women under a number of snacking situations:

  • One study allowed mums to eat and drink as they pleased (aka hello buffet!)
  • One sustained labouring women with a honey and date drink (aka yoga mum it!)
  • Another provided mums with a carbohydrate-heavy drink (aka feed your feelings!)

These diversely snacking and sipping ladies were compared to labouring mums provided with plain old water or ice.

Delivery hero

The researchers found that women who were able to eat and drink as they laboured had shorter labours – by an average of 16 minutes.

While 16 minutes might not seem like very long, if you’ve birthed a baby you will know that even 16 seconds can seem like an eternity. We’ll take every pain-free minute we can get.

The researchers theorised that being well-nourished meant a woman’s body worked more efficiently. (We theorise that a hangry mum is likely to drag her feet at the best of times, let alone during labour.)

The study’s senior author said that well-fuelled bodies performed better under the rigours of labour.

“If we’re well hydrated and have adequate carbohydrate in our body, our muscles work better. A woman’s uterus is largely made of muscle,” Thomas Jefferson University’s Dr Vincenzo Berghella said, Fox News reports.

The very hungry mumerpillar?

While many women find their intake of food and drink is restricted during labour, Dr Berghella says that this needs a bit of a rethink.

“The evidence from well-done studies is they can have more than [water and ice chips],” he said.

That said, it’s important to note that a burger and fries should probably not be top-of-mind if you’re working on pushing out a baby some time soon.

Eat light, birth right?

Experts recommend light snacks to keep mums in peak condition during this physically taxing time (and hopefully get that 16 minute head start!)

“A light meal could include fruit, light soups, toast, light sandwiches (no large slices of meat), juice and water,” the American Society of Anesthesiologists said.

“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,” researcher at Canada’s Memorial University, Christopher Harty suggested.


Further reading:

Less-Restrictive Food Intake During Labor in Low-Risk Singleton Pregnancies: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Most healthy women would benefit from a light meal during labor


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