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Eating and Drinking in Labor: The Influence of Caregiver Advice on Women's Behavior

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Background:Although there is much debate about eating and drinking during labor, little scientific data about its influence on the course of labor exist. In The Netherlands, most midwives and obstetricians allow women to eat and drink during normal labor. The objective of this study was to examine whether or not women were actively advised to eat and drink and if this advice affected eating and drinking behavior.Methods:A randomly selected group of midwives and obstetricians from across The Netherlands identified 211 consecutive nulliparous women to participate in the study. In a questionnaire with open-ended questions, women were asked after their delivery whether or not they were advised about eating and drinking during labor, and if so, about the nature of this advice and what they had consumed. Data were analyzed at the Leyenburg Hospital in The Hague.Results:Sixty-six percent of the women were not given advice about eating and drinking during labor. Women who were given advice usually followed it. In the total group, 37 percent of the women had intake other than water and of these, 75 percent ate solid food. After adjusting for other prognostic factors, the incidence of an instrumental delivery due to a nonprogressing second stage was lower in women with caloric intake (13% vs 24%, p = 0.04).Conclusion: The study design did not enable us to draw conclusions about the cause and effect between caloric intake and labor progress. Scientific data with respect to the giving of evidence-based advice about eating and drinking during labor are lacking. Should such advice become available, women are likely to follow it. (BIRTH 28:2 June 2001)
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-06-01

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