Eating During Labor Is Fine Now, So Get Those Ice Chips Out Of My Face

by Ashley Austrew

Few things in this world are more physically demanding than birthing a human, yet for decades doctors have expected us to do it without sustenance. Well, pass the French fries, Doogie Howser, because some new research shows it’s actually okay for moms to chow down in the delivery room.

Earlier this week, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) released the results of a study that found most women would actually benefit from eating during labor. The old guidelines that had nurses handing us ice chips and popsicles for years were actually based on a fear of aspiration — inhaling food or drink into the lungs — due to the use of anesthesia in deliveries.

After analyzing mountains of research, the ASA determined that’s just not a concern anymore. Anesthesia is largely administered through spinal blocks or other means now, as opposed to via a face mask like it was years ago. That means the majority of women have a very low risk for aspiration — in fact, only one woman died of aspiration between 2005 and 2013 — and should be able to eat and drink as needed.

According to the ASA press release, laboring women expend an amount of energy and calories comparable with a marathon runner. That’s a lot of damn calories, and if you’re stuck laboring for 10, 15, or even 20 hours, you need to replenish those calories or you’re going to be a zombie by the time you’ve progressed into very active labor.

I was in labor with my daughter and my son for 14 hours and 22 hours, respectively. That stuff they tell you about labor with the second kid being shorter? That was not the case for me, and both times I reached a place where it felt like I just couldn’t give anymore to the process. I wanted a sandwich and a sip of something with flavor. I wanted to not feel like I’d been wandering a desert and unable to find food for two days. I was like three seconds away from hallucinating about Ryan Reynolds bringing me a large pizza.

In what other circumstance would we expect someone to do hard labor for 22 straight hours with nothing but sugar-free popsicles to ease their hunger pangs? That sounds like complete torture when you really sit back and think about it. We’re pushing babies out, over here! At least infuse our ice chips with some fucking protein.

The guidelines exist for our safety — I get it — but it’s also good to see them reevaluating the rules that no longer serve us. Women who labor at home or in birthing centers often have the option to eat during labor, but hospitals never quite caught up to that. Hopefully they’ll heed this new advice and start offering some snacks before all the pregnant ladies riot and tip over a vending machine.