Water Birthing: Good or Bad?
The newest trend in birthing methods is water birthing.
But what is water birthing?
The process of giving birth to a child sitting inside a tub filled with warm water is called as water birthing. Some women opt to undergo labor in the water birthing tub and come out of it for delivery, while others opt to stay in the water for the entire duration of the delivery as well. The idea behind water birthing is to make labor and delivery less stressful to the mother as water facilitates mobility and comfort. It is believed that since the baby has already been in the amniotic fluid sac inside the womb for nine months, giving birth in a similar environment is also gentler for the child. Water birthing should always be carried out under the observation of a qualified healthcare provider with experience of handling this unique form of delivery.
Are there any water birth benefits for the baby or the mother?
Benefits to the mother:
- When inside the birthing tub surrounded by water, there is more mobility, which helps the mother to be more mobile and adjust to positions in which she is more comfortable and relaxed as compared to being on a hard bed at home or the hospital.
- It reduces blood pressure.
- Due to the buoyancy effect inside water, there are better uterine contractions and improved blood circulation, which help in more oxygen supply to the uterine muscles and to the baby.
- It reduces the mother’s stress, which causes the body to produce endorphins, which serve as pain inhibitors.
- The perineum is more elastic and relaxed inside water, and thus, eliminates incidences of tearing and episiotomy.
- It reduces the need for medications and medical intervention.
- It helps in providing an easier childbirth experience to the mother.
Benefits for the baby:
- Since it provides an environment similar to the amniotic sac, it is believed to be a gentler and warmer welcome for the baby.
Which risks is water birthing considered to carry?
- If the baby has a breech presentation (where feet of baby are facing down), this should be discussed with the midwives or healthcare care professional assisting in water birthing.
- If the mother has herpes infection or any other infection, water can act as a carrier and transmit it to the baby. Hence, the same must be discussed with the assisting healthcare professional.
- If you are carrying twins or triplets, all the pros and cons should be discussed before opting for water birthing (Note that water birth twin deliveries have been carried out successfully).
- If there is a medical history of diabetes, preeclampsia or toxemia, the healthcare professional should be well informed about this prior to the delivery.
- The meconium passed during delivery usually floats to the top of the water, which is removed immediately by the assisting healthcare professional or the mother is made to come out of the tub. However, if there is excess meconium and the water is stained and birth is immediate, the mother should lift the pelvis out of water to give birth.
- Any complications during delivery such as if the umbilical cord becomes twisted, any stress to baby in the birth canal, umbilical cord snapping, excessive bleeding or any urgent medical intervention can be a risk factor for water birthing.
What should be the temperature of the water?
Water temperature should be maintained as per the comfort of the mother, usually between 33-37 °C. Remember it should not exceed 38°C, as it can cause an increase in mother’s core temperature, which can increase the baby’s heart rate.
Will my doctor help me in water birthing?
If you are interested in opting for water birthing, discuss with your doctor or healthcare provider well in advance. If it is a suitable option for you, they will help you in the process or refer you to one of the water birth centers near you. They will guide you regarding a water birthing tub, water temperature and may be able to give you a brief water birth class demo as well.
As per the Waterbirth International Foundation, water birthing is highly rated by ladies who have already experienced it and also by water birth providers.
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Disclaimer: The information in the article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor.
Also read: Normal Delivery: Classical Vaginal Birth
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