Health Day - ONLINE EDITION

Women in Labor May Be Fine Taking in Nourishment, Study Finds

Those who got protein shake fared no worse than women given ice chips only, researchers say

  • Print

SATURDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- There may be good news for moms-to-be: A new study finds that women in labor and delivery may not have to forgo all nutrition or rely solely on ice chips to rehydrate, as is typically the case now.

Researchers say that allowing women to drink a protein shake during labor actually led to higher satisfaction rates among the laboring moms.

"We've found that not being able to eat or have any type of sustenance during labor and delivery is tough on the mom, who can labor for a long time. And, labor is like an aerobic exercise. By taking in extra calories, it helps ease the feeling of starvation and moms can feel better," said the study's senior author, Dr. Manuel Vallejo, a professor and chair of the department of anesthesiology at the West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown, W.V. Vallejo was working at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center at the time of the study.

Dr. Ashley Roman, an obstetrician and gynecologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, agreed that labor is akin to serious exercise.

"Labor is like a marathon, and it puts an unparalleled stress on women's bodies," she said. "It's nice to know that we can give women more than ice chips or water during labor. It's nice to know we can give them something caloric."

Results of the study were scheduled for presentation on Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists in San Francisco. Findings presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Since the 1940s, women have been restricted to a minimal amount of ice chips and water while they're in labor, according to background information in the study. There were several reasons for this practice. One was a concern that emptying of the stomach would be delayed when women were in labor, and that slow digestion could lead to nausea and vomiting during labor or delivery. Another concern was that if a woman needed general anesthesia at any point during labor or delivery, that any food or liquid present in the stomach could be breathed (aspirated) into the lungs.

Improved general anesthetic techniques have reduced the risk of aspiration, and the use of general anesthesia during childbirth is much rarer now, according to both Vallejo and Roman.

Still, the practice of limiting women to ice chips -- or in some hospitals clear liquids, which includes Jell-O -- leaves laboring women hungry, and possibly dehydrated or with low blood sugar levels, the study authors said.

According to Vallejo, prior research had suggested that protein shakes containing 30 grams of protein given during chemotherapy helped lessen nausea and vomiting for cancer patients. That made his team wonder if a protein shake would have a similar effect on the nausea and vomiting that many women experience during labor.

Their study included 150 women who underwent epidural anesthesia, a regional anesthetic that numbs just certain areas of the body. Aspiration isn't a concern with an epidural.

The women were randomly assigned to be given a protein shake and ice chips or water as they wanted, or just ice chips or water.

Vallejo's team found no significant differences in rates of nausea and vomiting between the two groups. What they did find was a greater level of satisfaction in the group that received the protein shake during early labor.

The researchers looked at another 18 women -- half who received a protein shake and ice chips or water, and half who just received ice chips and water -- and measured how quickly their stomachs emptied during labor. Vallejo said it was about 20 minutes for ice chips or water and about 26 for the protein shake. He said this isn't a big enough difference to be concerned about.

"In patients who are otherwise healthy, we should have a more liberal policy on what women can have during labor. A clear liquid diet or a protein shake should be OK," Vallejo said.

Roman agreed. "I think most places are already offering clear liquids during low-risk labor," she said. "But this study does have the potential to change practice in that it gives reassurance, and it has the potential to improve patient satisfaction and also make patients more comfortable."

She added that low-risk moms include those who haven't had a prior surgical delivery (cesarean-section), women carrying one baby that's normal in size, and women who are not having problems with the progression of labor.

More information

Learn more about what to expect during childbirth from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Stuart Murray announces musical RightsFest for CMHR opening weekend

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young gosling prepares to eat dandelions on King Edward St Thursday morning-See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 17- bonus - May 24, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A goose cools off Thursday in water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What should the city do with the 102-year-old Arlington Street bridge?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google