By Robert Preidt
"The results are compelling and strongly argue for a change in practice," said study author Dr. Vincenzo Berghella, director of maternal fetal medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
"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," he added in a university news release.
"We've known that it's important for women to stay well-hydrated during pregnancy and labor. 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," Berghella said.
In the study, his team reviewed seven small clinical trials that included more than 1,200 women who received IV fluids at a rate of either 250 milliliters or 125 milliliters an hour during labor.
General practice in the United States is to administer IV fluids at 125 milliliters per hour during labor, the study authors said.
Compared to women who received that rate, those who received more IV fluids were less likely to have a C-section, were in labor for an average of 64 minutes less, and spent an average of nearly 3 fewer minutes in the pushing phase.
However, the study did not prove that more IV fluids caused labor to be safer and shorter.
The findings were published online recently in the journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica.
"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," Berghella added.