August 12, 2019
Why Can't I Eat Food During Labor?
By: Cara Terreri | 0 Comments
Spoiler alert: you can... and you should!
Eating and drinking during labor and birth has long been a known no-no. But in recent years, it has been found that, in fact, eating and drinking is safe for laboring people. This is great news because labor and birth is a monumental physical event that requires energy and hydration from food and drinks!
Think about it this way: how long do you typically go without something to eat or drink on an average day with little to no physical activity? For most people, it's around 2-3 hours, and even during that small amount of time, it's common to have a drink and/or small snack. Considering that labor can range from 8-20+ hours for a first timer and the physical activity is comparable to an endurance sport like running a marathon, it only makes sense that a person would need to eat and drink regularly to sustain energy.
Unfortunately, restricting food and drink during labor is all too common. One large survey of people giving birth in the United States showed that only 40% drank fluids and a small 21% ate food. Fear of complications from aspirating stomach contents, which comes from outdated information and methods, is what drives the restrictive policies from hospitals and providers. The reality is that your stomach is almost never fully empty no matter how long ago you ate, and the risk of aspiration (inhaling stomach contents) and complications from aspiration, are extremely rare. A 2017 research analysis of almost 4,000 women found that there is no evidence to support restrictions on what you eat or drink in a typical labor. If fact, restrictions may cause labor to be longer and feel more painful.
Bottom line: eat when and what you feel like during labor, and drink plenty of fluids throughout. Labor is hard work -- you need energy from food and drink to power you through! If you are concerned about push-back with this policy from your chosen place of birth, follow our recommended tips to get the best care in labor:
- Learn more about preparing for labor in a quality childbirth education class (Lamaze classes are a great option!).
- Ask if your care provider or birth place routinely restricts eating and drinking during labor. You can find this out at an initial interview appointment or during prenatal appointments and at a hospital tour.
- If you don’t agree with the restrictive policies, consider switching your provider or your place of birth, if possible.
- If there is a restrictive policy in place, ask to see the evidence that your care provider or place of birth is using, and ask if they know about the updated evidence.