Eating in Labor

From the doula guide again:

When you are in labor, whether to eat is ultimately your personal choice, even though the hospital staff may strongly discourage or wish to prohibit it. Do your best to avoid a heated confrontation about this provocative issue, while knowing that you have the right to choose to eat normally.

I remember 24 years ago watching my mother pack her bag for the hospital when she was expecting my youngest sister. She had Smarties and I asked why was she taking candy to the hospital? She explained that the hospital policy was you could not eat in labor and she needed something to give her energy. I remembered this as I packed my hospital bags for my first birth and thought I felt sneaky about it, I had Kit give me food to eat when I was laboring. In hindsight that's silly - it's my body, I was hungry, and it was appropriate for me to eat. You can look up the research for how safe it is to eat in labor and how unlikely you are to need general anesthesia (and in case you did need it, how unlikely it is that you would aspirate and it not be treatable. Plus some argue that aspirating stomach acid is more dangerous than aspirating your lunch.)

While you don't want to get into an argument with your nurse while you are laboring (not conducive to calm labor environment) you should realize that you have hired the hospital to help you with your birth, not the other way around. They may have policies designed to minimize their liability and potential risks to you but they cannot kick you out for eating. Legally they cannot deny you care, to include a c-section if it was warranted, because you ate. (Elective surgery can be postponed if you ate and the anesthesiologist refuses to provide care to you, but that's another issue.)

Anyhoo, when I did need general anesthesia for my stat c-section I had just finished my yummy pie and waffle cut fries and that didn't stop them from knocking me out. 😀 And after that I decided my chance of getting struck by lightening twice, so to speak, was unlikely and I wasn't going to go hungry in labor again. Though my next delivery was at the birth center and they encourage you to eat and drink so it wasn't an issue.

Do your research. Talk to your care provider. If you have a fast labor then chances are you aren't going to be pausing to ask someone to run to Chipotle for you. But if you have a long labor and you are feeling hungry then listen to your body. Know the risks, decide for yourself, and do what feels best to you. Laboring without nourishment has risks of its own and an IV isn't going to cut it when you're starving and need all of your strength to push out your baby. Here's the World Health Organization labor report, check out Category D #1.

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