Why researchers are encouraging women to eat and drink during labour

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A new research review out of Thomas Jefferson University has found eating and drinking during labour could both lower a woman’s risk of C-section and shorten labour time by as much as an hour.

“If you and I go out and try to run a marathon or even take a run or swim, we do better if we’re well-hydrated,” said Dr. Vincenzo Berghella, director of maternal fetal medicine at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.

Berghella’s team compiled data from seven clinical trials that collectively included a total of 1,215 women. About half of the women received IV fluids at a rate of 250 millilitres per hour, while the other half received fluids at a lower rate of 125 millilitres per hour.

Women who received the faster fluid rate were 30 per cent less likely to deliver their baby by cesarean section and laboured an average of 64 minutes less than women getting the slower fluid rate.

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“The results are compelling and strongly argue for a change in practice. We have already begun changing practice at Jefferson to give women more fluids in labour to allow them to have the best chance of delivering vaginally.”

Berghella said previous research has found that allowing women to eat and drink liberally during labour can also improve outcomes.

“Women shouldn’t be restricted for oral intake by drinking by mouth or eating during labour,” he said.

 “If they can keep hydrated, even by drinking enough or by having more IV fluid, their labour could be shorter and more efficient.”

Right now in Canada, 27 per cent of babies are born via C-section.

The results of the study were published on online in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica.

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