Can I drink water during labor?
Michael Urig, MD, is chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix.
Question: I’m pregnant and nearing my due date. Recently, I read that I won’t be allowed anything to drink during labor. Is this true?
Answer: For years, doctors have traditionally recommended that pregnant women avoid food or drink during labor because the stomach doesn’t empty as rapidly during active labor. Also, if a woman requires general anesthesia for an emergency c-section, which is rare, a full stomach could put her at risk for complications like aspiration pneumonia.
More recently, however, views on drinking clear beverages during labor have shifted, as data has shown that women who consume liquids while laboring have good outcomes. Research indicates that liquids can help facilitate the labor process by providing better hydration and improving tolerance for long labors. Consequently, many hospitals now give higher amounts of intravenous fluids during labor.
Because nausea and vomiting during labor is common, solid foods are still discouraged, and in most cases, women don’t desire food during labor anyway. In my experience, a woman drinking large amounts of fluids close to delivery may also have nausea and vomiting. While drinking liquids in more advanced labor may cause this discomfort, no increased risk has been observed for conditions like aspiration pneumonia.
Because of the hydration benefits of liquids during labor, some hospitals, including Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, have adjusted their policies regarding food and beverage intake prior to delivery. Banner Good Sam now allows women clear liquids during labor, and women with scheduled c-sections can have solid foods six hours prior and liquids two hours prior to surgery.
Reviewed April 2010