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Women in labor can ditch the ice chips and drink a protein shake instead

Mothers who enjoy a protein shake during labor have higher patient satisfaction scores

San Francisco — (October 12, 2013) 

Women in labor can enjoy a chocolate or vanilla protein shake during labor rather than being relegated to the tedium of ice chips, according to a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY™ 2013 annual meeting. Mothers who drank a protein drink during childbirth reported higher satisfaction rates, although nausea and vomiting rates were the same as for mothers who were only given ice chips.

“Giving birth is a tremendous stress on both mother and baby,” said Manuel C. Vallejo, M.D., D.M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown. “Anything we can do to increase patient satisfaction during labor without increasing adverse events is a major positive. Physicians should feel comfortable replacing ice chips or water with a high-protein drink supplement.”

Nausea and vomiting is an unfortunate side effect for some women in childbirth. Restrictions on eating and drinking during childbirth began more than 50 years ago when women often gave birth under general anesthesia. The risk of aspiration of food and drink into the lungs is a rare but potentially fatal complication of general anesthesia and therefore, women in labor generally have their eating and drinking restricted.

In the study, 150 women were split into two groups. The first group received a 325 mL, 160 calorie Premier Nutrition Protein Shake, which contained 30 grams of protein, one gram of sugar, eight amino acids and 24 vitamins and minerals, in addition to ice chips and water. The second group served as the control and only received the ice chips and water. A secondary aim of the study was to evaluate stomach emptying rates in women who were given the high-protein drink or ice chips and water using ultrasound. The study found stomach emptying rates were comparable in both groups (26 minutes in the high protein group versus 20 minutes in the control group).

The study found no difference in the incidence of nausea and vomiting between both groups with comparable emptying rates of the stomach. However, patient satisfaction scores were higher in the protein shake group, according to the study.

“This study suggests that more liberal general guidelines regarding what a mother can eat and drink during labor should be considered,” explained Dr. Vallejo. “Doctors should feel comfortable, at least, replacing ice chips and water with high protein shakes to increase patient satisfaction.”


Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 52,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at . To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit Like ASA on Facebook , follow ASALifeline on Twitter and follow ASA on LinkedIn .



American Society of Anesthesiologists