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Ban on liquids and solids in delivery room to be lifted?

January 27, 2010

Were you told not to drink or eat during labor? And, did it make you want to scream: “give me that _____ now!” It was like running a marathon with no food or water.

That might be changing in the delivery room.  A recent small study found that there weren’t any risks to consuming liquids or solids during labor.  The NY Times summarized the study, saying, “there were no statistically significant differences in such primary outcomes as the rate of Caesarean sections and fetal Apgar scores, or in secondary outcomes, like the need for pain relief or duration of labor. One small study, however, did find an increase in C-sections among women taking carbohydrate drinks compared with those limited to drinking water.”

How did the restriction on liquids and solids during labor start? If a patient is under general anesthesia, any solids/liquids can be drawn into the lungs, causing Mendelson’s Syndrome. The syndrome can be fatal, though rare. The use of general anesthesia during labor and delivery is also rare as caesarean sections are mainly done using regional anesthesia.  The NY Times points out that “some hospitals have lifted restrictions on drinking during labor in recent months, since the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued new guidelines last August allowing patients to drink clear liquids. But the guidelines kept the restriction on solid foods.” However, the Times offers this cautionary note from Dr. William Henry Barth Jr., chairman of American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ committee on obstetrics practice, “the problem is going to be for emergency C-sections, which are rare but not unheard of,” said  “There’s just not time in that setting to stop and do regional anesthesia. And it can be unpredictable.”

In the end, I hope that even this small study will lift the current ban on allowing a woman to have liquids and solids during labor in the delivery room.