|Posted on September 10, 2013 at 7:48 AM|
|Posted on September 10, 2013 at 7:48 AM|
We had a great question come up in class on Friday, one that bears writing about because at least one student every session plans to give birth at a hospital where they are told to have a good meal before they come in, because their food will be restricted or prohibited once they check into the labor and delivery department.
To begin with, even having to ask that title question begs another question: why are we asking permission? The female body, left to it’s own devices, will naturally shut down appetite as the serious work of labor progresses. Dr. Bradley teaches to eat to appetite if you are hungry, drink if you are thirsty. Even after mom is no longer asking for water, Dr. Bradley admonishes coaches to keep mamas hydrated so that the labor progresses with ample hydration to circulate all the hormones that keep labor on track.
As students of natural birth, we know that as labor gets harder and moves closer to birth, the body shuts down appetite because it needs to focus on the work of labor, not digestion. If labor is prolonged, maybe mom will want literally “a bite” of something: a bite of banana, a bite of cheese, a bite of fruit, a couple of nuts, etc.; definitely not a full meal. Since we had long labors, we found that clear broths or simple soups (thin tomato soup in my case) were a great compromise. Although I wasn’t hungry, the liquids gave me a few calories to lend some energy to continue to labor, while also meeting my hydration needs.
Science confirms that hospital policies need to catch up with evidence-based care. Here are excerpts from the Cochrane Review, plus two other articles for you to consider as you decide what is best for your family.
From the review, “Restricting oral fluid and food intake during labour” 
From the Science Daily article, “Restricting Food and Fluids During Labor Is Unwarranted, Study Suggests” 
From the Science Daily article, “Eating and Drinking During Labor: Let Women Decide, Review Suggests” 
So what is a couple to do when the hospital has a policy that restricts food and drink during labor? Do you feel confident in your choice to eat and drink? Do you want to circumvent the system by bringing in “Coach’s Food”?
That is a very individual choice. You can labor at home as long as possible and follow your own cues if you want to prolong going to the hospital where your intake is going to be restricted. You can pack some “Coach’s Food” and circumvent the system by snacking out of the coach’s cooler. You can do neither and go with the system. You can also talk to your care provider, bring in the scientific literature, and see if they will sign off on a birth plan that allows you to eat and drink in the hospital in spite of the policy. Their hands may be tied, and it may not be a possibility, however as the saying goes, you won’t know unless you try.
Did your birth place have a policy that restricted food and drink? What did you do; how did you handle it?
Please leave us a comment – it will be moderated and posted.
 Singata M, Tranmer J, Gyte GML. Restricting oral fluid and food intake during labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD003930. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003930.pub3.
 Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health (2013, August 22). Restricting food and fluids during labor is unwarranted, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 10, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130822141954.htm
 Wiley-Blackwell (2010, January 22). Eating and drinking during labor: Let women decide, review suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 10, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100119213043.htm
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