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Clinical Guideline Backs Food, Drink During Labor

Nurses, midwives urge more reviews, but say practice provides comfort and nutrition

THURSDAY, May 29 (HealthDay News) -- Drinking and eating during labor can provide women with the energy they need and should not be routinely restricted, says a new clinical bulletin from the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

"It's important that we don't unnecessarily restrict a woman's ability to eat or drink during labor. In addition to providing hydration, nutrition and comfort, self-regulating intake decreases a woman's stress level and provides her with a feeling of control," Deborah Anderson, an associate clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a prepared statement.

Currently, most U.S. hospitals restrict a woman's food and drink consumption during labor to reduce the risk of aspiration if a problem develops and she requires general anesthesia.

The new clinical bulletin says the decision to allow a woman to have food and drink during labor must take into account a number of factors: the woman's health status; the risk of surgical intervention, and the system in which the woman gives birth.

Among the other recommendations in the clinical bulletin:

  • During pre-birth care, discuss with women the very small but potentially serious risk of aspiration if general anesthesia is required.
  • Encourage healthy women experiencing normal labor to make their own decision about whether to have food and drink.
  • Evaluate all women at increased risk for birth that requires surgery for factors that could result in difficult intubation or aspiration.
  • Continued research to confirm the safety of allowing women in labor to have food and drink.

More information

The American Pregnancy Association has more about pregnancy and birth.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American College of Nurse-Midwives, news release, May 19, 2008

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