Fasting During Labor: Is it Really Necessary?

Lynn Griffith
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Many women feel unsupported during labor and delivery due to picking a hospital with a 50 percent C-section rate.  Many women identify their birth as traumatic, and suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety.  It’s important to read the current research, look into all options for birthing and ask the right questions. (1)

Fasting during labor leaves women hungry and exhausted, slows down labor and leads to interventions!

Many hospitals continue to believe in fasting during labor, leaving women hungry and exhausted.  The body then naturally goes into ketosis during labor, as this is the body’s natural response to any prolonged physical activity.  Ketosis can give you a headache and leave you feeling sick.  Being hungry during labor often slows down the labor process, leading to use of interventions to speed up labor. (2)

With changes in anesthesia, new study reports there is no need for healthy women to fast during labor and delivery!

A new study reports that healthy women can skip fasting and would benefit from eating a light meal during labor.  The risks related to eating are associated with anesthesia, and the improvements in this line of pain control have reduced risk of eating during labor.(3)

Historically, it was believed that women could aspirate or inhale liquid or food into their lungs, causing pneumonia.  Whether you were planning to receive pain medications or not, women needed to be ready just in case a problem arose or the mother changed her mind.  Advances in anesthesia now remove this risk for healthy women.(3)

Authors of the study are suggesting that anesthesiologist and obstetricians work together to assess each patient individually.  Being able to eat gives the mother more choices in their birthing experience and prevents calorie deficiencies.(3)

Women aspirating during labor is nearly nonexistent.  Between the years 2005 and 2013, there was only one case of aspiration associated with labor and delivery in the United States.(3)

Studies show that the calorie demand of women during labor and delivery is that of marathon runners!

Researchers analyzed 385 studies published after 1990 and studied the caloric need that women have during labor and delivery.  The research reported that the energy and caloric demand is similar to that of marathon runners. They also found that fasting causes emotional stress, moves blood away from uterus and placenta, and lengthens labor.(3)

If you are planning an upcoming labor and delivery, talk to your provider about eating during labor.  If they are hesitant, show them the research, and advocate for your rights as a mother.  Every right that mothers keep during labor and delivery, improves the mother’s birth experience and reduces stress during labor and delivery.

Sources for this article include:
(1) www.huffingtonpost.com
(2) www.babycentre.co.uk
(3) www.sciencedaily.com

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