@FLBlonde93: Most other countries don’t have the “nothing by mouth during labor” policies that much of the US has, so there are plenty of opportunities to conduct this research. I agree that more could be done (more research could always be done.) I also note that this is an example of the type of research study that would be valuable to have, and to conduct, but that often has difficulty getting funded by granting agencies, in part because there is very little financial incentive. Unlike, for example, drug trials, where there is a potential to accrue substantial profit, there’s not much of a profit motive in researching recommendations about eating and drinking during labor. So, while not a barrier to research per se, it may be a barrier to research funding (which, in turn, can be a disincentive for researchers to pursue it if their positions, tenure decisions, etc., depend on winning grants.) Just to add some nuance to the research side of the conversation. (The “research base” for the policy, incidentally, is one weakly-designed study from 40+ years ago. Hardly ironclad scientific proof.)
Re. the excessive vomiting, two thoughts: in the first place, from what I understand, most women in labor either a) don’t feel very much like eating, or b) don’t feel like eating very much, and are unlikely to have a “full belly”. By the time it mattered, they almost certainly wouldn’t have enough food in their stomachs to produce “excessive” vomiting. You also might want to look at Ina May Gaskin’s Birth Matters and/or Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth for her discussion of what she calls “Sphincter Law.” This is something you won’t find in the academic research literature – it’s based on Ina May’s personal experience and observation of several thousand births. She has noticed that, while it’s true that vomiting is a not-infrequent side effect of eating in labor, it seems to assist in advancing it by helping to cause involuntary relaxation of the sphincter muscles.
There is also a strong case to be made that a woman in labor may well need the calories to be able to complete the physical work of giving birth. Depriving her of food may prevent vomiting, but it may also exhaust her and lead to far more aggressive interventions. Compared with a C-section, I think many women (though perhaps not all) would feel that vomiting is by far the lesser of two evils. So I find the argument of “why add risk if there is no real need?” unconvincing. How does the doctor know there isn’t a “real need” for any given laboring woman to get a calorie boost in order to finish what she’s trying to do?
I agree with you that each woman is different, and I certainly would never say that anyone should be forced to eat in labor. Plenty of women find that they just don’t feel like it, and that should be respected. But neither should a woman be deprived of food if she wants it or feels that she needs it, as some women do. It should be left to the laboring woman’s discretion. (And, incidentally, if hospitals were to adopt that policy, it would be significantly easier to conduct a US-based observational study on eating during labor, if not an RCT, which could be ethically questionable.)