For years, birth professionals have been saying that individuals in labor should be fasting. The concern was if an emergency cesarean were needed that the individual could asphyxiate on any regurgitated food. This concern was based on a study done more than 50 years ago when birthing individuals were put under general anesthesia to give birth. Because this is not the general practice for labor or birth any longer, the guidelines are shifting to reflect these modern practices.
A recently released article from the American Society of Anesthesiologists reported on a study that shows birthing individuals respond better to the stress and strain of labor and birth if they eat a light meal during labor.
Christopher Harty stated that giving birthing individuals the option to eat during labor, “… gives expectant mothers more choices in their birthing experience and prevents them from being calorie deficient, helping to provide energy during labor.”
As doulas, we have known, and seen first hand, the benefit of calories consumed throughout the labor process. This has been especially true for prolonged labors. We have observed that labor is more like a marathon than a sprint and calories needed to be allocated accordingly.
Many hospitals have been very accommodating of this viewpoint by offering juices, broths, popsicles, tea, and/or honey to those laboring. This maintained the hospitals’ policies of only allowing clear fluids while providing the patient with some substance to continue the physically taxing job of giving birth.
This new study also acknowledges the deficiencies of previous studies that did require patient fasting during labor and birth.
We are very appreciative of this new stance by the ASOA and hope it will soon be followed by a similar statement from the American Academy of Gynecology. Both of these organizations work diligently to ensure that birthing individuals are well cared for and are given the safest options (based on the latest studies and up to date information) for labor and delivery.