Why a water-birth may be right for you

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As this type of birth becomes increasingly popular, here's a little information on what you should know about water-birth.

Delivering by water birth is becoming increasingly popular compared to conventional labour and delivery in a hospital ward. It has been practiced for ages, and the practice is seeing a reemergence among modern women.

When a woman delivers by water birth, she squats in a tub filled with warm water in the position most comfortable to her for labour. Some women choose to deliver the baby in the water while some women prefer to climb out for the actual birth. It can sound a little scary, but there are many benefits of water birth you may not be aware of. Here’s a little more information on what you should know if you’re thinking about delivering by water birth.

Won’t being born in water hurt the baby?

Actually, it is thought that being born in water is a less traumatic way for the baby to enter the world, as the environment feels like the amniotic fluid it’s been submerged in already for nine months. The warm water is soothing and comforting, and it reduces the stress of labour and delivery for both baby and mum.

The benefits of a water birth can include:

  • Reducing stress hormones, which lowers blood pressure and allow the body to produce natural painkillers
  • Increasing movement and energy during labour, as the water supports a heavily pregnant body and can improve blood circulation and encourage better contractions
  • Reducing tearing, as water relaxes the perineum, making it stretch better so few stitches are needed later
  • Improving mental focus as the mum-to-be can adjust her position, relax, and concentrate on birthing

What are the risks of water-birth?

Water births are best for low-risk, healthy pregnancies. They are not suitable for women with herpes, which can be transmitted in water, or other medical conditions which can cause complications. Water birth can also be complicated when there are multiple babies involved, so it should only be carried out by an experienced professional. It is also not suitable for premature babies who need special attention.

The risks with water birth that you should be aware of include:

  • Breech positioning: Even if your baby was correctly positioned for birth at your last scan, it can flip around anytime. If your baby is in a breech position, you require medical intervention.
  • Water inhalation: Normally, a baby does not take its first breath of air until it is born. But sometimes, if the baby is having problems in the birth canal, the baby may inadvertently inhale some water, though this is rare.
  • Dirtying the pool: During labour, it’s very common to lose control of your bowel movements. While midwives and nurses are used to this, and will even clean up the debris, you might feel uncomfortable about birthing your child in this water.
  • Presence of meconium. Meconium is your baby’s first feces and is black or green in colour. While it can wash off the baby’s face, it’s best to avoid contact by coming out of the water once it’s detected.
  • Snapping of umbilical cord. One risk when a baby is born in water is that the umbilical cord can snap when the baby is lifted out of the water. Professionals are usually very good about doing this with care when handling the baby, however.

You can also choose to have a water birth in the comfort of your home instead of a hospital. However, you should at least have an experienced trained doula or midwife by your side in case of complications.

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Cindy Gan

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