Why Your Baby Wants You to Eat During Labor
We would never expect a marathon runner not to take in nourishment and replenish during a race. Labor is like a marathon. When a women is in labor, she is demanding her body to perform at its peak, to work efficiently to birth her baby. It is a physical test like no other.
The uterus is a muscle and needs glucose to contract efficiently, without it the uterus soon tires and cant perform at its maximum. Without nourishment, contractions can become inefficient and stall due to physical fatigue – which then may lead to unplanned medical interventions.
That’s why your baby cares. Your baby wants you to be strong and your contractions to be effective to birth him without medical interventions that can affect him negatively.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that because the energy demands of labor are so great and because replenishment ensures maternal and fetal well-being, healthcare providers should not interfere with women’s desire for oral intake during labor.
Recently the Cochrane Collaboration published a review on restricting oral fluid and food intake during labor. The authors concluded that there is no evidence in support of restriction in women at low risk of complications.
At a birth I witnessed, the mother was in labor for 48 hours and was given nothing to eat (but ice chips) for the last 26 hours. When it was finally time to push, she was too tired and weak and exhausted to push effectively. Her muscles were too deprived of energy to work properly.
The doctor had to use forceps and the mother ended up with a third degree perineal tear. She experienced pain and discomfort for months. When the mom is in pain it inhibits her production of oxytocin ( the love hormone) and her cortisol (stress hormone) levels are elevated. Cortisol production can delay a mother’s milk coming in, which can lead to her baby being supplemented with formula.