Women who decide to give birth in a hospital may soon have access to more than ice chips during labor. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) just released a committee opinion recommending that clear liquids (water, juice, sports drinks, etc.) be provided to women who have uncomplicated labor or are scheduled for a planned cesarean.
ACNM has long supported a liberal approach to providing oral nutrition to women in labor, including drinks and solid food. But for decades, many hospitals have restricted women’s oral intake for fear of aspiration—a potentially fatal occurrence that involves stomach contents entering the lungs while a woman is under anesthesia. Thanks to improvements in anesthesia, aspiration in pregnant women is now extremely rare.
Midwives emphasize that birth is a normal process that under normal circumstances does not require fasting. They educate clients about the small but potentially serious risk of aspiration and watch women throughout labor to identify when food and drink need to be restricted. While ACOG’s latest weigh-in is old news to midwives, hopefully it will encourage more hospitals to adopt less restrictive, more woman-centered policies.