According to Health Day News on Sunday, a new study finds that women in labor and delivery may not have to forgo all nutrition or rely solely on ice chips to rehydrate, as is typically the case now.
Last month, researchers have found that restricting food and drinks during labor does not benefit mothers in any way, according to a study published in The Cochcrane Library.
Researchers say that allowing women to drink a protein shake during labor actually led to higher satisfaction rates among the laboring moms.
Dr. Ashley Roman, an obstetrician and gynecologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, agreed that labor is akin to serious exercise.
"Labor is like a marathon, and it puts an unparalleled stress on women's bodies," she said. "It's nice to know that we can give women more than ice chips or water during labor. It's nice to know we can give them something caloric."
Since the 1940s, women have been restricted to a minimal amount of ice chips and water while they're in labor, according to background information in the study. There were several reasons for this practice. One was a concern that emptying of the stomach would be delayed when women were in labor, and that slow digestion could lead to nausea and vomiting during labor or delivery. Another concern was that if a woman needed general anesthesia at any point during labor or delivery, that any food or liquid present in the stomach could be breathed (aspirated) into the lungs.
However, ice chips often make a person more dehydrated, as it takes more energy to suck or chew on the ice chips than they actually get from the nourishment of the ice.
In addition, better general anesthesia has made for better outcomes during labor in case of a cesarean section, and there isn't a big risk of aspiration any longer. In fact, a study of over 9,000 women allowed to eat and drink in labor proved no harm to mothers who had vaginal births versus cesarean section.
According to lead researcher Dr. Manuel Vallejo, prior research had suggested that protein shakes containing 30 grams of protein given during chemotherapy helped lessen nausea and vomiting for cancer patients. That made his team wonder if a protein shake would have a similar effect on the nausea and vomiting that many women experience during labor.
The researchers looked at another 18 women -- half who received a protein shake and ice chips or water, and half who just received ice chips and water -- and measured how quickly their stomachs emptied during labor. Vallejo said it was about 20 minutes for ice chips or water and about 26 for the protein shake. He said this isn't a big enough difference to be concerned about.
Food is also a good source of energy for mothers who have been laboring for hours, and may even help speed labor.
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Emily Sutherlin is also the Pregnancy Examiner.
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