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Light Eating During Labor Not Linked to Adverse Effects

Obstetric, neonatal outcomes are identical for women who eat light diet or only drink water

WEDNESDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- In selected patients, consumption of a light diet during labor has no effect on obstetric or neonatal outcomes and is not associated with an increased incidence of vomiting, according to research published online March 24 in BMJ.

Geraldine O'Sullivan, M.D., of St. Thomas' Hospital in London, U.K., and colleagues randomly assigned 2,426 nulliparous, non-diabetic women with a singleton cephalic presenting fetus and a cervical dilatation of less than 6 centimeters to consume either a light diet or water only during labor.

The researchers found no significant differences between the light-diet and water-only groups in spontaneous vaginal delivery (44 percent for both), mean labor duration (597 minutes versus 612 minutes), cesarean delivery (30 percent for both), vomiting (35 percent versus 34 percent), and also observed similar neonatal outcomes.

"The most recent guidelines on intrapartum care for healthy women and babies from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) conclude that women in established labor may eat a light diet unless they have received opioids, or they develop risk factors that make a general anesthetic more likely," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "The results reinforce the guidance in the NICE intrapartum guidelines, but they may not fully resolve the clinical debate. Future research could investigate women's views and experiences of eating and drinking in labor, and the effect of a policy of a light diet on outcomes in settings where rates of normal birth, and of intrapartum interventions, are likely to be closer to the national average."

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