Effect of food intake during labour on obstetric outcome: randomised controlled trial

BMJ. 2009 Mar 24;338:b784. doi: 10.1136/bmj.b784.


Objective: To investigate the effect of feeding during labour on obstetric and neonatal outcomes.

Design: Prospective randomised controlled trial.

Setting: Birth centre in London teaching hospital.

Participants: 2426 nulliparous, non-diabetic women at term, with a singleton cephalic presenting fetus and in labour with a cervical dilatation of less than 6 cm.

Intervention: Consumption of a light diet or water during labour.

Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was spontaneous vaginal delivery rate. Other outcomes measured included duration of labour, need for augmentation of labour, instrumental and caesarean delivery rates, incidence of vomiting, and neonatal outcome.

Results: The spontaneous vaginal delivery rate was the same in both groups (44%; relative risk 0.99, 95% confidence interval 0.90 to 1.08). No clinically important differences were found in the duration of labour (geometric mean: eating, 597 min v water, 612 min; ratio of geometric means 0.98, 95% confidence interval 0.93 to 1.03), the caesarean delivery rate (30% v 30%; relative risk 0.99, 0.87 to 1.12), or the incidence of vomiting (35% v 34%; relative risk 1.05, 0.9 to 1.2). Neonatal outcomes were also similar.

Conclusions: Consumption of a light diet during labour did not influence obstetric or neonatal outcomes in participants, nor did it increase the incidence of vomiting. Women who are allowed to eat in labour have similar lengths of labour and operative delivery rates to those allowed water only.

Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN33298015.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Delivery, Obstetric / statistics & numerical data*
  • Eating*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric*
  • London
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Prenatal Care
  • Professional Practice
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN33298015