Many thanks to Jill at Unnecesarean for posting this article from the British Medical Journal reporting on a study confirming that eating and/or drinking during labor does not have a deleterious effect on mother, baby, or neonatal outcomes of birth! I'm going to quote the same segment that she did here:
"EATING while in the throes of childbirth should no longer be a medical taboo, according to a study released today.
"The duration of labour, the need for assisted delivery, and caesarean rates were all unaffected by munching between contractions, found the study, published by the British Medical Journal.
"Doctors the world over have long discouraged women in labour from eating, for fear that it could lead to breathing food into the lungs in the case of an emergency caesarean while under general anaesthetic.
"But such incidents have declined dramatically in recent years, mainly due to the use of local anaesthesia.
"Moreover, some doctors have long argued that fasting while in labour - which can last many, many hours - may be bad for the mother and the baby."
Our childbirth ed teacher prepared us for the hospital protocol of "no eating after admission" and told us, quite frankly, to bring our own food to the hospital.
There is no justification for starving mothers (and babies) for hours on end based on the assumption that the mother just might might might need an emergency section. Hopefully American hospitals will get the message, though it'll probably take a while.
Thankfully our midwives never discouraged eating in labor - they encourage eating and drinking in labor according to the mother's wishes. So I didn't have to fight that battle.
During my own labor.... hmm. Well, my labor started at 4:28 a.m. with my water breaking and immediate labor contractions following. I ate a normal breakfast, and then a snack later in the morning, and then nothing till 11 p.m. that night after the birth - I just wasn't interested. I think I've heard that most women don't want to eat during active labor. I sure didn't! (Though I have heard that some women like to eat in the break between transition and pushing. Wasn't it Ina May Gaskin who said that she needed a tofu salad sandwich at that point in each of her labors?) But I was starved afterwards and devoured two bowls of strawberries and cottage cheese. Yum.
Our midwives did push fluids, though - Gatorade, mostly, which I drank in sips throughout labor.
And so, mothers of the world, eat up! (And drink up!)