It is a very common question asked by many pregnant women, “Why can’t I have anything to eat while I’m in labor?” The answer is simple, really – you might aspirate if you end up undergoing a C-section or some other emergency surgery due to complications. Pain medication and simply being in labor can cause nausea, which can result in vomiting. If you’re under anesthesia you may end up breathing in your vomit during surgery.
Common Obstetrical Emergencies
Even if you think you will only have a vaginal delivery, you never know what could happen during labor. Spontaneous labor with no interventions to “speed up” labor, emergencies can still happen.
Emergencies that may happen during or immediately after birth are placenta abruption, uterine rupture, placenta previa, umbilical cord prolapse, fetal distress, shoulder dystocia, post partum hemorrhage, and uterine inversion. Whether you think you’re in a high-risk category or not, in labor and delivery, the staff must be prepared for the anything.
General Anesthesia and Aspiration
No solid food – or even liquids for some women in labor. The ACOG, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, says, “expert consensus supports the recommendation that women undergoing a planned cesarean delivery or elective postpartum tubal ligation after vaginal birth should have no solid food from six to eight hours prior to surgery. Pregnant women who have additional risk factors for aspiration, such as morbid obesity or diabetes, and those at high risk for operative delivery (i.e., forceps, vacuum), may need to be restricted from fluid intake on a case-by-case basis.”
Taking in only ice chips and a very small amount of clear liquids during labor can be traced back to the 1940s, when C-sections were performed under general anesthesia. During labor, IV fluids hydrate the patient. If you’re not in active labor yet, and you want to eat before you come to the hospital (unless you are a scheduled cesarean section), go ahead. Just don’t eat a greasy meal, or you may see it again later on, if active labor comes on suddenly.
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Can I Eat During Labor?
The goal for childbirth is always a healthy mother and a healthy baby. Restricting food and drinks for a short time may feel inconvenient if you’re in labor for a long time, but it is only going to help the labor and delivery staff achieve that goal, and could keep you safe in the event of an emergency surgery.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Committee on Obstetric Practice. (2009, reaffirmed 2011). Accessed April 24, 2013.© Copyright 2013 Janine Kelbach: Labor and Delivery, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Pregnancy