Moms who have been through labor say fasting their way through the ordeal didn't seem adequate.
For generations, the rule was "no food or liquid" because of risk of inhaling it into the lungs -- especially under general anesthesia. But anesthesia has changed. And now anesthesia is typically an epidural or spinal block.
The rules that have been in place about eating and drinking during labor were intended for practices that have been outdated for generations, agreed Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, an obstetrician at NYU Langone Medical Center.
"They are practices that don't affect the vast majority of women," she said.
A study by the American Society of Anesthesiologists now shows most healthy women would benefit from a light meal during labor.
Researchers analyzed hundreds of recent studies and concluded that moms in labor need the same kind of energy and calories as marathon runners. When they don't get it, their bodies turn to fat for energy.
That can reduce contractions, leading to longer labour and lower health scores in newborns.
"In low-risk women some drinking, mild fluids, light meal is okay, " said Dr. Shirazian.
The revised advice should mean most moms come out of the delivery room feeling only pangs of love, not hunger.
Not every obstetrician will be quick to change protocols. But experts say, it should allow for a conversation before the baby's due date about each woman's particular situation, health and risk factors for eating and drinking in the hospital.