March 15 (UPI) -- Research by Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia suggests giving women more intravenous, or IV, fluids during labor can significantly reduce c-section rates.
The study also revealed IV fluids shortened the overall length of labor by one hour and shortened the pushing phase of labor.
"The results are compelling and strongly argue for a change in practice," Dr. Vincenzo Berghella, director of Maternal Fetal Medicine and a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, said in a press release. "We have already begun changing practice at Jefferson to give women more fluids in labor, to allow them to have the best chance of delivering vaginally."
Researchers evaluated data from seven small clinical trials that involved a total of 1,215 women. About half of the women received IV fluids during labor at a rate of 250 milliliters an hour and half received IV fluids at 125 milliliters per hour. The common practice among doctors is to give the lower dose, 125 milliliters per hour, during labor.
Women who received 250 milliliters per hour were less likely to need a c-section, the researchers report. Women given the higher rate of fluids also saw their overall time of labor reduced by an average of 64 minutes and pushing phase shortened by 3 minutes.
"We've known that it's important for women to stay well hydrated during pregnancy and labor," Berghella said. "This study suggests that IV fluids could help women maintain hydration at appropriate levels, reduce the likelihood of c-section, and decrease length of labor. Recently, we also showed that letting women eat more liberally in labor, especially in early labor, has benefits including shorter labor, and no identifiable risks."
In the past, women had been discouraged from eating or drinking during labor in case they had to be sedated for an emergency c-section.