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Eating during labor has no ill effects: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Allowing a pregnant woman to eat during labor does not seem to have any impact on the outcome of the infant or mother, and doesn’t increase the risk of vomiting, according to a new study.

The findings come from a study of 2426 pregnant women in labor who were allowed to eat lightly or to have just water during labor.

Researchers failed to see any significant differences between the two groups. Eating lightly during labor had no effect on the length of labor, the need for assisted delivery, such as the use of forceps, or Cesarean section rates.

Forty-four percent of women who ate a light diet during labor had a spontaneous normal vaginal delivery -- a rate identical to the rate seen in their peers who were permitted to have only water, Dr. Andrew Shennan, from King’s College London, and colleagues report.

The cesarean delivery rate was 30 percent in each group, and rates of instrument-assisted vaginal delivery were 27 percent in the eating group and 26 percent in the water group.

The average length of labor was slightly but not significantly shorter in the eating group versus the water-only group (597 vs. 612 minutes).

The incidence of vomiting was nearly the same as well, at 35 percent and 34 percent in the two groups. There were no significant differences in any infant outcomes were observed between the groups.

The study appears in the March 24th Online First issue of the British Medical Journal.

In a commentary on the study, Dr. Soo Downe, from the University of Central Lancashire, UK, notes that the results “reinforce what has already been shown in many observational studies” and show that low risk women may eat lightly during labor.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, Online First March 24, 2009.

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