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Natural Eating Behavior in Latent Labor and Its Effect on Outcomes in Active Labor


  • Myra Parsons CNM,

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    • Myra Parsons, CNM, MACMI, is in private practice in Sydney, Australia, and a doctoral candidate at the University of Western Sydney.

  • John Bidewell PhD,

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    • John Bidewell, PhD, is a research psychologist at the School of Nursing, Family, and Community Health, University of Western Sydney, Australia.

  • Sue Nagy RN, PhD

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    • Sue Nagy, RN, PhD, FRCNA, is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Technology Sydney School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, Sydney. She is also a Research Fellow with the Nursing and Health Services Research Consortium in Sydney.

Myra Parsons, CNM, University Western Sydney, C/- 23 Mansfield Road, Galston NSW 2159, Australia. E-mail:


This study examined the effect of eating during the latent phase of labor on the hospital-estimated labor duration and birth outcomes for the mother and baby. A prospective, comparative trial with concurrent controls compared labor duration and outcomes of 176 low-risk, nulliparous women who birthed at four hospitals in Sydney, Australia. Food was voluntarily consumed by 82 women, whereas 94 consumed clear fluids only. Food intake during the latent phase of the first stage of labor was associated with a longer duration of labor (mean difference = 2.35 hours). No difference was found between eating and noneating groups for the rate of medical interventions, adverse birth outcomes, or vomiting. Results suggest that eating during the latent phase of labor may increase labor duration.