FRIDAY, Feb. 4, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Gastric emptying is delayed in parturients, while labor epidural analgesia seems to facilitate gastric emptying after a light meal, according to a study published online Feb. 1 in Anesthesiology.

Lionel Bouvet, M.D., Ph.D., from the Hôpital Femme Mère Enfant in Bron, France, and colleagues examined whether gastric emptying of a light meal would be reduced in parturients receiving epidural analgesia and with no labor analgesia compared with nonpregnant and pregnant women (10 in each group). Ultrasound examination was performed to ensure the stomach was empty, followed by ingestion of a light meal (125 g yogurt; 120 kcal). At 15, 60, 90, and 120 minutes, ultrasound measurements of the antral area were performed. The rate of gastric emptying was measured at 90 minutes; half-time to gastric emptying was also examined.

The researchers found that for nonpregnant women, pregnant women, parturients without labor analgesia, and parturients with labor analgesia, the median rate of gastric emptying at 90 minutes was 52, 45, 7, and 31 percent, respectively. Compared with the nonpregnant and pregnant control groups, the parturient-epidural group had a statistically significantly lower rate of gastric emptying at 90 minutes. In addition, the parturient-no-epidural group had a statistically significantly lower rate of gastric emptying compared with the parturient-epidural group.

“These results should lead anesthesiologists to remain cautious about permitting solid foods during labor, especially when no epidural analgesia is used,” the authors write.

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