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The surprising thing that can shorten a mother's labor before childbirth
Dont turn healthy snacks away during labor they may actually provide benefits. - photo by Herb Scribner
Dont turn healthy snacks away during labor they may actually provide benefits.

A new study from the American Society of Anesthesiologists found that many women can benefit from eating a light meal during labor since it will give them necessary energy for giving birth, according to Science Daily.

"Our findings suggest a change in practice makes sense," Christopher Harty, co-author of the study, told Science Daily. "Physicians, anesthesiologists and obstetricians should work together to assess each patient individually. Those they determine are at low risk for aspiration can likely eat a light meal during labor. This gives expectant mothers more choices in their birthing experience and prevents them from being calorie deficient, helping to provide energy during labor."

This comes even though women are traditionally told to fast during labor due to concerns they may aspirate, or inhale liquid or food into their lungs, which can cause pneumonia, according to Science Daily.

But advances in anesthesia care have led to few cases of aspiration there was only one case from 2005 to 2013 from a woman who was obese and had pre-eclampsia (also a major issue among pregnant women), Science Daily reported.

The researchers, who reviewed 385 studies from 1990 until now, said the traditionally recommended action of fasting can cause harm to both the mother and infant, Science Daily reported.

Without food in the system, the body will begin to use stored fat for energy, increasing acidity of the blood in the mother and infant, potentially reducing uterine contractions and leading to longer labor and lower health scores in newborns, according to Science Daily.

Similar research has backed up this belief. In 2013, a study published in The Cochrane Library found that restricting food and drinks doesnt help mothers, according to Medical News Today.

The study analyzed five studies of more than 3,100 women and compared the newborns of those who ate light meals during labor and those who had restrictions, Medical News Today reported.

The researchers specifically examined the babys breathing effort, heart rate, muscle tone, reflexes and skin color and found that there were no differences between those who did eat and didnt eat, according to Medical News Today.

Other research has found that those who eat during labor have shorter labors (about 45 to 90 minutes) since the food gives them the energy they need, according to parenting advice website What To Expect.

After all, labor lives up to its name it's hard work, and hard work requires fuel. Laboring on empty can make it tough to summon up the strength for those last pushes, according to What To Expect.

Still, many doctors will suggest pregnant women stay on an ice-chip only diet during labor to avoid the risk of stomach contents flooding the lungs, according to WebMD. This especially is common among women who have anesthesia during labor, or need emergency anesthesia.

Other research has found that women in labor should restrict their diet to just protein shakes, since itll give them a little sugar, amino acids, and vitamins and minerals to help with child birth, according to a study cited by Medical Daily.

In fact, the study, which reviewed labor eating habits of 75 women, found those who ate protein shakes instead of ice chips reported happier patient satisfaction during labor, Medical Daily reported.

Labor is like a marathon, and it puts an unparalleled stress on womens bodies, Dr. Ashley Roman, an obstetrician and gynecologist, said, according to Medical Daily. Its nice to know that we can give women more than ice chips and water during labor. Its nice to know we can give them something caloric.

In the end, though, it may come down to women making their own decisions about whether they want to eat during labor or not, according to WebMD.

"Since the evidence shows no benefit or harms, there is no justification for [prohibiting eating and drinking] during labor, provided women have a low risk for complications," study researcher Mandisa Singata, MD, said in a press release. "Women should be able to make their own decisions about whether they want to eat or drink during labor or not."