Eating and drinking in labor

26 January 2010 at 2:07 pm Leave a comment

So yes, BIG news, folks–a few OBs have decided that it may be safe to “allow” women to eat or drink in labor! This has been widely reported in the mainstream media in the past couple days, but the way it gets reported really irks me. Staying hydrated, and eating and drinking according to your own desires, should be the default–that is normal; that is life; that is the process of labor and birth. We do not need more OBs telling us what we can and cannot do!

“The restrictions date back almost seven decades, said Joan Tranmer, an associate professor of nursing at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario,” the Times article reports. Wow, really? Seven decades? Wait–you mean my grandmother, giving birth at home in a railroad flat in Manhattan didn’t have a doctor breathing down her neck and limiting her to ice chips? Uh, yeah–where would she have gotten the ice again? 

Okay, okay–sorry for the sarcasm, but really, it just rubs me the wrong way. And take a look at this great quote, from the end of that article: “‘From an anesthesiologist’s perspective, they missed the boat on this one,’ said Dr. Craig M. Palmer, chairman of the committee on obstetrical anesthesia for the American Society of Anesthesiologists. ‘They looked at the impact on the progression of labor, but to be honest, that’s not an issue for anesthesiologists. Our primary concern is patient safety.’” Sigh. Yes, we care about “patient” safety too (though recall that most midwives don’t refer to pregnant or laboring women as patients, but rather clients), but–especially when the “safety” risk is to just 1% of births that use general anesthesia–just to dismiss the entire  process of labor as “not an issue” is really to show part of problem with the obstetric or medical model of birth.

So, enough with the study–the “news,” you know–and down to the good stuff. What did you eat or drink when in labor?

For me, I had a big lunch in Chinatown when I was in early labor (regular contractions, strong enough to make me catch my breath, but not enough for me to need to move around or even to tell anyone I was pretty sure I was in labor). I remember having two dumplings, three pei pa tofu balls, some white rice, some garlicky seaweed, and some spicy eggplant, and lots and lots of water. Just five hours later, though, sitting down at the dinner table, something about the smell of the food and the strengthening contractions made it impossible for me to eat anything. When my midwife arrived around midnight, I’d pretty much only had water since lunch. She broke out the energy drinks (we used lemon-flavored Recharge, which I thought tasted like flat, mildly salty lemonade), and I drank about a quart and a half of that, plus a lot more water, over the next nine hours until my baby was born. I felt extremely nauseated, though, and I didn’t want to eat anything even though she would periodically offer. I don’t recall feeling thirsty on my own, but one of my support people handed me a cup often, and I always drank some before handing it back. My midwife definitely took the lead in suggesting I eat or drink, which I appreciated.

What about you? What were your experiences?



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