Review| Volume 146, ISSUE 1, P3-7, September 2009

Eating and drinking in labor: Should it be allowed?

  • Dushyant Maharaj
    Correspondence address: PO Box 7343, Wellington South, 6242 Wellington, New Zealand. Tel.: +64 4 385 5999; fax: +64 4 389 5943.
    Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand

    Wellington Women's Hospital, Wellington, New Zealand
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      Eating and drinking in labor is a controversial subject with practice varying widely by practitioners, within facilities, and around the world. The risk of aspiration pneumonitis and anesthesia-related deaths at cesarean section has resulted in adherence to historical practices of starving women in labor. Studies have shown that the risk of this anesthetic-related complication is low. It is the fear of the birth-attendant to bear full responsibility if a patient inhales gastric contents when giving in to demands for liberal fluid and food regimes during labor that governs practice. While the bulk of evidence supports fluid intake in labor, there are insufficient published studies to draw conclusions about the relationship between fasting times and the risk of pulmonary aspiration during labor. Whether or not allowing food and fluid throughout labor is beneficial or harmful can only be determined by further research. A computerized search was done of MEDLINE, PUBMED, SCOPUS and CINAHL, as well of historical articles, texts, articles from indexed journals, and references cited in published works.


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