This week, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released “updated” recommendations for eating and drinking in labor. Recommendations Relax on Liquid Intake During Labor is the title of their newest Committee Opinion, and I fear it is already hopelessly outdated before the ink is even dry on the page!
The newest recommendations “allow” women to consume “modest amounts of clear liquids such as water, fruit juice without pulp, carbonated beverages, clear tea, black coffee, and sports drinks.” While this is certainly a big improvement from the “ICE CHIPS ONLY” policy that has been around forever, it hardly seems like the kind of nourishment one would want a laboring mama to be limited to, when she is doing the magnificant, powerful, hard work of birthing a baby!
I could go on and on about how this “new” policy makes no sense, alas, another blogger has already done a much better job than I ever could! Head over to The Family Way Publications Blog and read how a person has more of a chance of being struck by lightening TWICE in one year, than they do in dying from aspiration in labor!
There, you can also follow links to studies examining the true risks of eating and drinking in labor, find out that the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) announced more than 11 years ago, that women should be allowed clear liquids in labor, and read how the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) recommends counseling women on the rare risk of complications from eating in labor, and encourages laboring moms to make a decision from a place of informed choice!
As a doula who has attended more than 130 births and a childbirth educator who has listened to probably 500 birth stories over the years at all those birth class reunions, I have always been impressed with the wisdom of women and their bodies to know when it made sense to eat and drink in labor and when they needed to cut back!
The fact is, women who are working crazy hard to have their baby, are just not asking for a cheeseburger between contractions! And, if they are, my bet is they have a ways to go before baby is earthside, and we would all benefit from making sure that she is eating and drinking to appetite and thirst.
Women who are denied adequate calories, energy and sustenance during birth often end up with longer labors, less energy and stamina as the hours drag on, and increase the risk of unwanted complications and interventions…all because they are running out of “steam” on their ice chip diet!
I encourage my clients to eat easy to digest foods (grapes, nut butters, eggs, yogurt, toast, melon, pasta, brown rice, yummy soup, strawberries, bananas…you get the idea), good quality proteins and carbs and plenty of good liquids like Recharge (a natural gator-ade product with no corn syrup or strange artificial colors), Emergen-C and my favorite, Bolthouse Perfectly Protein drink, (my fave flavor is Vanilla Chai) throughout labor, as long as they can, and to drink at least diluted juice till birth, even when they can’t eat anymore, just so they have calories going in!
I have seen eating and drinking in labor make all the difference in how the birth goes! And I have seen how quickly women fade and lose necessary energy and strength when denied nourishment! (1000ml of Lactated Ringers on your IV pole is not an adequate replacement for good quality food and drink!) If you are having a hospital birth, I encourage a dialogue with your doctor or midwife about both their philosophy around women eating in labor, as well as the policies of the birth center or hospital. Listen carefully and make your own choices about what you and your body need during your labor and birth! I deeply believe that women know what is best for themselves and their babies!
And if you have a minute, share your favorite labor/birth food and drink ideas and stories from a client or your own birth! Post your comments here!
PS: Don’t forget that partner also needs good fuel to get him/her through too! Remember that!