Does giving birth come with a no-eating policy? And if so, why can’t you eat during labor? We’ll take you through the details.
You may have heard that the only thing you can eat during labor is ice chips. And, fair enough, those may not be on your list of favorite foods.
So is it all true? Can nothing else pass your lips? And if so, why can’t you eat during labor? After all, who wants to embark on a major journey without packing road snacks?
The good news is, in many cases, you may be able to get a light munch on.
Let’s dive into the details.
In this article 📝
- Can you eat during labor?
- Why is eating during labor becoming more acceptable?
- When is it risky to eat during labor?
- What can I eat during labor?
- Can you eat while in labor at the hospital?
Can you eat during labor?
Well, it depends who you ask.
In the past, the official word has been that food is a bit of a no-go during labor, with the only permitted items on the menu being ice chips and fluids through IVs.
Many hospitals have had a policy known as NPO — a Latin term nil per os, meaning that nothing will pass the lips of patients.
But this appears to be changing for low-risk pregnancies.
So why was this policy there to begin with? Let’s start from the beginning.
If you’ve ever been under a general anesthetic, you would have been asked to fast beforehand. And that’s to reduce the risk of aspiration.
Aspiration is when you inhale food or drink into the lungs.
It can be very serious, causing major inflammation in the lungs or even death.
Pregnant women are more at risk for aspiration.
There’s added pressure on your stomach because of the space constraints in your lower half.
Also, the pregnancy hormones that have been helping your body prepare for this moment might up the stakes.
The reason? They might just be too good at their job of getting your muscles to relax.
Not only will they ensure that your lower half is ready for labor, they may also relax your esophagus — and that’s the muscle that works to protect your lungs from your food.
Why is eating during labor becoming more acceptable?
Thanks to medical advancements in pain management, the risks of aspiration are seriously decreasing. And that means eating during labor may now be on the table.
According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, if you’re healthy and your pregnancy is low risk, having a light meal during labor is not only possible — but may actually be a good idea.
After all, you need to keep your energy up for this big, beautiful task.
Fasting for lengthy periods can be emotionally and physically draining — and right now, the goal should be to boost you up.
The main reason for the shift in policy? General anesthesia is hardly ever used in delivery anymore. An epidural or spinal block is a more preferable way to help with pain.
In this 2009 study, eating a light diet during labor was shown to have no effect on the health of mamas or babies, nor did it increase the risk of vomiting.
And this study done in 2013 added its voice to the mix, showing that there’s little evidence that eating during labor can be harmful if you have a low-risk pregnancy.
This literature review done all the way back in 2002 suggested the same thing.
When is it risky to eat during labor?
Sometimes, eating during labor is not a great idea.
If you or your baby are being monitored for specific health conditions or you are having more than one baby, you might be at higher risk for an emergency c-section.
In this case, you may be advised not to eat or drink once labor kicks into gear.
If you are undergoing a planned cesarean, your doctor will probably give you instructions about when to fast.
What can I eat during labor?
If you’re healthy and have a low-risk pregnancy, talk to your healthcare provider about your options.
You’re a team, and your input in the process is vital.
While it’s probably not a great idea to have a full three-course meal, there are some food options that will help you get a nutrition boost.
During the early stages of labor, you might want to try a light snack like oats, a piece of toast, or some yogurt.
Fruit can also give you a refreshing boost.
Can you eat while in labor at the hospital?
Hospitals will usually allow you liquids, like popsicles, Jell-O and juice.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists still recommend sticking to fluids at this stage.
With all that we’re learning and the way medicine is developing, these policies are constantly under review — so this may change in the future.
Giving birth is like an athletic event, so it’s totally understandable that you’d need some substance along the way.
Or you may not want to eat at all.
You get to do this your way.
All the best, mama. ❤️
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