Evidence on Eating and Drinking during Labor

Is It Safe to Eat and Drink During Labor?

In many hospitals, patients are told not to eat or drink during labor. The medical term for this is “NPO,” which comes from the Latin nil per os, meaning nothing by mouth.

In a recent survey of mothers who gave birth in U.S. hospitals, 60% of them reported not drinking during labor, and 80% said that they did not eat (Declercq et al. 2014). When people are free to eat and drink as desired during labor, as is typical in U.S. freestanding birth centers, most of them (95%) choose to eat or drink (Rooks et al. 1989).

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This article was updated in February 2017 by Rebecca Dekker, PhD, RN, APRN and Anna Bertone, MPH
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