Thursday, January 21, 2010

Restricting food and drink in labor is not justified

by Amy Romano, CNM (Originally published on Science and Sensibility for Lamaze International)

Listen to this great podcast about the new Cochrane review showing that the policy of restricting food and drink in labor is not justified. It’s a nice summary of how and why the research was conducted. In addition, I particularly liked these tidbits:

1. Rather than asking “is eating and drinking in labor safe?” the reviewers turned the question around to ask “is there any justification for restricting food and drink in labor?” This is not just a nuance. How a researcher asks a question can influence both the findings and the conclusions, as I have discussed previously.

2. Since they identified no benefits (nor harms) of restricting oral intake, the reviewers concluded that women should be able to eat and drink according to their preference.

3. It was her experience teaching antenatal classes that led one of the reviewers to study food and drink in labor. Listening to women’s concerns and anxieties made her question the justification for restricting women’s autonomy in labor.

In perusing the web to try to find an image for this post, I came across this heartbreaking picture of a woman begging for a drink in labor and being told no. (I’d post it here but it is copyrighted.) When the researchers said they found “no harms” of restricting food and drink in labor, they pointed out that no one had actually studied women’s preferences or experiences. I’m heartened to know that some of those who tout evidence based care are beginning to recognize that emotional distress is itself a harm. If there is no counterbalancing benefit, the conclusion is clear.

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