Preggy mama, here's some good news for you. Recent research has found that it's unnecessary for women to fast during labor. In fact, expectant moms may actually benefit from consuming a light meal during labor.
Women in labor are prevented from eating while in labor to prevent aspiration – inhaling foreign particles into the lungs. Modern anesthesia care, specifically the use of spine-administered anesthesia in place of anesthesia masks, dramatically lowers these risks, according to the study.
The study, presented at the annual Anesthesiology 2015 meeting, perused through 385 published literature related to aspiration during labor. They found only one case of aspiration in the U.S. of a woman in labor between 2005 to 2013. There were no cases between 2000 and 2005 in the U.K.
Researchers say that the almost nonexistent numbers are due to the increased use of anesthesia administered through the spine, like epidurals and spine blocks, thanks to modern advances in anesthesia care. Anesthesia was previously provided using a mask which heightened the risk of aspiration.
“Our findings suggest a change in practice makes sense,” says Christopher Harty, co-author of the study and a medical student at the Memorial University in Canada. “This gives expectant mothers more choices in their birthing experience and prevents them from being calorie deficient, helping to provide energy during labor.”
The study also found that the energy and caloric demands of women in labor equal that of a marathon runner. Without adequate nutrition, the body would turn to fat as a source of energy increasing the acidity in the blood and potentially reducing uterine contractions leading to a longer labor, according to the study.
“However, certain factors increase a laboring patient’s risk of aspiration which outweigh the risks of withholding nutrition,” said Erin Sprout, BN, co-author. These factors include eclampsia, pre-eclampsia, obesity and the use of opioids to manage labor pain, says Sprout.
Healthy women who are not at risk of aspiration should consult their doctor for advice on eating a light meal during labor, says the study.