Let Low-risk Moms Eat During Labor?

Author and Disclosure Information



Results. The authors of the meta-analysis found that the patients in the intervention groups, compared with the control groups, had a shorter mean duration of labor by 16 minutes. Apgar scores and the rates of Cesarean delivery, operative vaginal delivery, epidural analgesia, and admission to the neonatal ICU were similar in the intervention and control groups. Maternal vomiting was also similar: 37.6% in the intervention group and 36.5% in the control group (relative risk, 1.00). None of the 3,982 patients experienced aspiration pneumonia or pneumonitis.1


An outdated practice, per the data

For years, women’s diets have been restricted during labor without sufficient evidence to support the practice. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, Ciardulli and colleagues did not find a single case of aspiration pneumonitis—the outcome on which the rationale for restricting diets during labor is based. A 2013 Cochrane review by Singata et al also found no harm in less-restrictive diets for low-risk women in labor.7 Ciardulli et al concluded that dietary restrictions for women at low risk for complications/surgery during labor are not justified based on current data.


Underpowered and missing information

This meta-analysis found no occurrences of aspiration pneumonia or pneumonitis; however, it was underpowered to identify these rare complications. This is partially due to the unusual need for general anesthesia in low-risk patients, as noted earlier. Data on the total number of women who underwent general anesthesia in the current review were limited, as not every study within the meta-analysis included this information.


Stemming the cultural tide

One challenge to implementation is changing the culture of practice regarding low-risk pregnant women in labor, as well as the opinions of other health care providers and hospital policies that oppose less-restrictive oral intake during labor.


The PURLs Surveillance System was supported in part by Grant Number UL1RR024999 from the National Center For Research Resources, a Clinical Translational Science Award to the University of Chicago. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Center For Research Resources or the National Institutes of Health.

Copyright © 2018. The Family Physicians Inquiries Network. All rights reserved.

Reprinted with permission from the Family Physicians Inquiries Network and The Journal of Family Practice (2018; 67[6]:379-380).

Next Article: