Some mothers experience nausea during labour and find eating and drinking unappetizing. Nevertheless, most women need to eat to store up energy early in labour. Several hospitals worldwide restrict foods and fluids once a woman has gone into labour - just in case caesarean section and general anaesthesia is required.
The risk of aspiration of food and drink into the lungs is a rare but potentially fatal complication of general anaesthesia and therefore, women in labour generally have had their eating and drinking restricted. But new research from the University of Liverpool, which analysed five UK studies involving 3,130 women, found that limiting food and drinks during labour do not benefit mothers and recommended women in an un-complicated labour should have a choice over whether they eat and drink. 1
Doctors who promote nutrition during the hours of labour recommend light snacks high in carbohydrates or proteins to keep energy levels up, and liquids to keep hydrated. Women in labour can enjoy a chocolate or vanilla protein shake during labour rather than being relegated to the tedium of ice chips, according to a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY™ 2013 annual meeting. Mothers who drank a protein drink during childbirth reported higher satisfaction rates, although nausea and vomiting rates were the same as for mothers who were only given ice chips.
"Giving birth is a tremendous stress on both mother and baby," said Manuel C. Vallejo, M.D., D.M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Anaesthesiology, West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown. "Anything we can do to increase patient satisfaction during labour without increasing adverse events is a major positive. Physicians should feel comfortable replacing ice chips or water with a high-protein drink supplement."
In the study, 150 women were split into two groups. The first group received a 325 mL, 160 calorie Premier Nutrition Protein Shake, which contained 30 grams of protein, one gram of sugar, eight amino acids and 24 vitamins and minerals, in addition to ice chips and water. The second group served as the control and received no other food or drink besides the ice chips and water.
A secondary aim of the study was to evaluate stomach emptying rates in women who were given the high-protein drink or ice chips and water using ultrasound. The study found no difference in the incidence of nausea and vomiting between both groups with comparable emptying rates of the stomach. However, patient satisfaction scores were higher in the protein shake group, according to the study.
"This study suggests that more liberal general guidelines regarding what a mother can eat and drink during labour should be considered," explained Dr. Vallejo. "Doctors should feel comfortable, at least, replacing ice chips and water with high protein shakes to increase patient satisfaction." 2
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