Ice chips have been a delivery room staple for years now, but would expecting mothers be willing to try something a little more caloric? According to a new review of past research, eating prior to delivery isn't actually harmful — and in fact, eating during labor could be good for some women. The review found that women who ate prior to delivery had slightly shorter labor than those who forewent food.
The new review took a look at 10 controlled trials, in which nearly 4,000 women were either limited to ice and water or were allowed to have more substantial food, such as honey, date syrup, liquid with carbohydrates, and even actual, honest-to-goodness meals. Researchers found that the women who ate a little more tended to have shorter labors, by an average of about 16 minutes. (It's not the most substantial amount of time, but personally, I think it justifies cracking open a can of Pringles during a stressful time.)
Mind you, correlation doesn't necessarily equal causation — and research has yet to actually prove that eating can help shorten delivery times. "We really don't know how much if anything people can eat or drink in labor," the lead author of the study, Dr. Vincenzo Berghella, told Fox. However, the findings do make sense, and Berghella told Fox:
If we're well hydrated and have adequate carbohydrate in our body, our muscles work better.
According to Baby Centre, eating during the early stages of labor is probably a good idea, since it can fuel up you up for later, when you're likely to be feeling fatigued. If you haven't eaten enough prior to labor, your body will try breaking down fats for energy, in a process called ketosis. Ketosis is totally normal — it's what happens when we exercise for long enough, too — but it can cause headaches and nausea. Mild ketosis during labor is perfectly normal, but lacking fuel during delivery can extend the amount of time you're in the delivery room.
For those who might want the extra energy boost, experts suggest avoiding high-fat foods (which can be hard to digest) or anything that might lead to a sugar crash later. Instead, stick to small snacks made up of carbohydrates, which will give you a slow energy release and won't be too difficult to digest.
That said, not everyone is going to be all that into food while they're in labor, and understandably so. However, the research review does help dispel past myths that eating is unacceptable before delivery, so make sure to talk the findings through with your doctor if you think you'll need the extra fuel.