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Sorry, Women Who Only Ate Ice Chips During Labor — You Could've Had Real Food

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Moms, think back to when you had your babies. If you went through a typical labor, chances are that you’ve since blocked out one of the most uncomfortable parts of the whole ordeal. No, not the endless waiting, or the jittery nerves, or even the horribly painful contractions; we’re talking about those far less memorable but oh-so-frustrating ice chips you’re forced to consume while being restricted from having any other food or drink. At the time, munching on those ice chips probably seemed downright barbaric — and what if you found out it was all for nothing?

Women in maternity wards at most US hospitals are banned from eating anything other than ice chips while they’re in labor, but a new study is calling the restriction into question. The research, which appears in the March issue of the American Journal of Nursing, found no increase in risks for women who are allowed to eat and drink anything they want during labor compared to women who were given only ice chips.

In other words: That steak tip dinner you were dreaming about while spending hours squirming in pain as you prepared to bring new life into the world? It quite possibly could have been eaten, and you and your baby may have been just fine.

Researchers came to their conclusion after analyzing the medical records of nearly 2,800 women in labor admitted to one hospital from 2008 through 2012. At the study hospital, one practice group of nurses and doctors had a policy of allowing laboring women to eat and drink as they pleased. Another four practice groups restricted patients from having anything other than ice chips during their labor. Researchers found no increase in risks for women who are allowed to eat and drink during labor compared to those allowed only the ice.

"The findings of this study support relaxing the restrictions on oral intake in cases of uncomplicated labor," write researcher Anne Shea-Lewis, BSN, RN, of St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, N.Y. Adding to the findings of previous reports, these results suggest that allowing laboring women to eat and drink "ad lib" — at their own discretion — doesn't adversely affect maternal and neonatal outcomes.

The findings add to those of previous studies suggesting that restrictions on eating and drinking during labor could be safely relaxed in uncomplicated cases. (Gee, there’s some news we wish had been brought to our attention earlier!) If you plan to have more babies, it’s worth discussing this new research with your ob-gyn — and it’s definitely worth sharing these findings with other women you know who may have children soon. The more the comfortable and safe the process can be, the better, right?

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