Women in the last throes of pregnancy could soon find labour more bearable, according to new research.
This is because the results suggest they should have licence to eat and drink.
Scientists from the University of Liverpool found that limiting food and drinks during labour does not benefit mothers.
Several hospitals worldwide restrict foods and fluids once a woman has gone into labour - just in case a caesarean section and general anaesthesia is required.
The study says that while some women do not want to eat during the labour process, others have "unpleasant and harrowing experiences" of food restriction.
But the new research, which analysed five UK studies involving 3,130 women, claims this procedure is "unwarranted" and mothers in labour should have a choice over whether they eat and drink.
All mothers-to-be were rated as low-risk for the need of general anaesthetic during labour.
Scientists analysed both mothers and newborns and compared those who had food and drink limitations with those who did not.
Three main outcomes were reviewed for women: a caesarean section; a vaginal birth; and the mother's satisfaction of the birth.
The study showed no differences in any of the outcomes recorded between women who ate and drank during labour, and those who did not.
Modern caesarean methods such as using regional anaesthesia rather than general anaesthetic have meant that the risk "has become extremely small", the authors say.
The results are published in The Cochrane Library .
Copyright Press Association 2013