For years now women have been limited to ice chips while enduring countless hours of labor. Originally, these guidelines were put into place because of a fear of aspirating during anesthesia. However, according to this study by the American Society of Anesthesiology, "improvements in anesthesia care have made pain control during labor safer, reducing risks related to eating."
In fact, according to their findings, healthy women enduring labor would actually benefit from a light meal. "This gives expectant mothers more choices in their birthing experience and prevents them from being calorie deficient, helping to provide energy during labor." says Christopher Harty, BN, co-author of the study and a medical student at Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
Labor can last up to 20+ hours. That would be 20+ hours of no food while going through the exertion of labor. Labor is so intense and physically exhaustive that research suggests that it is the caloric equivalent of running a marathon. Laboring women would no doubt benefit from replenishing those calories during the process.
There are a few factors which would increase the risk of aspiration which would make it a good idea to stick to the ice chips. Those factors include eclampsia, pre-eclampsia, obesity and the use of opioids to manage labor pain.
According to the study, "A light meal could include fruit, light soups, toast, light sandwiches (no large slices of meat), juice and water." It's important to discuss the possibility of having a light meal with your health care providers, both your OB and your anesthesiologist.
Hopefully these findings will help hospitals adapt and benefit the pregnant 'hangry' women.