Water Birth Delivery – Benefits & Risks
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- What Is Water Birth?
- How Do I Prepare for a Water Birth Delivery?
- Restrictions While Using the Birth Pool
- How to Make Sure That the Birth Pool Is Available In the Hospital?
- Situations Where Childbirth In Water Is Not a Good Option
- What are the Risks of Baby Birth in Water?
- How Do Babies Breathe During Water Birth?
- Pros & Cons of Delivering a Baby in Water
- Advantages & Disadvantages of Labouring in Water
- How Much Does It Cost?
- Important Myths About Water Birth
Water makes us feel rejuvenated, reduces stress, and eases pain. Delivering your baby in water is said to have similar benefits. Water birth can be traced back to ancient times in some parts of the world, but it is not very popular. Let us look at all the relevant information about water birthing before you decide to opt for it – of course not without consulting your doctor. Read this article to educate yourself on the topic beforehand.
What Is Water Birth?
Water birth involves giving birth to your baby in a warm-water tub. Some women prefer to labour in the water, but not give birth in water. However, some women labour and give birth in water.
The soothing effect of water, coupled with warmth, helps women through labour. The comforting sensation helps mothers-to-be relax and helps the labour progress by aiding contractions.
How Do I Prepare for a Water Birth Delivery?
If you are thinking about using a birth pool for labour and delivering the baby, you must first consult your doctor. You must also check with the maternity hospital to ensure that they have adequate facilities such as, a water tub, and the required skilled staff who have experience in helping women through bathtub births or bathtub deliveries.
You must also educate yourself about the water birthing procedure. Talk to women who have delivered through this procedure. Here are some questions that you can ask the doctor to ensure that your hospital is the best place for water birthing:
- How many women opt for water birthing?
- How many women use a birth pool during labour?
- How many women deliver in the pool?
- Is the staff in the hospital trained in water birthing procedures?
- Will the birth pool be available when you want it?
Restrictions While Using the Birth Pool
You must check with the hospital about the rules and regulations for water birth. The doctors will assess your medical history and decide whether it’s safe for you to use a birth pool. In addition to the current pregnancy, previous pregnancies are also considered when making a decision.
Chances of you being allowed to use the pool are good in the following scenarios:
- You are delivering after 37 weeks.
- You are expecting one baby.
- The baby is in a head-down position.
- Labour has started on its own.
- Your blood pressure is under control and normal.
- Your baby does not show signs of distress and is healthy.
However, you might be restricted from using the birth pool if you:
- Have a medical condition such as high blood pressure, epilepsy, herpes, infections, or diabetes.
- Are extremely overweight.
- Are delivering more than one baby.
- Have a history of heavy bleeding during your previous pregnancies.
- Are in premature labour.
- If the labour is progressing in a way which might not be suitable for water birth.
- If the labour was induced by syntocinon drip, your baby must be monitored using electronic sensors. In such scenarios, it is not possible to go for a water birth.
How to Make Sure That the Birth Pool Is Available In the Hospital?
In India, there are very few hospitals that provide water births, and these hospitals might have only one pool. Sometimes, when you need it, another woman in labour might be using it, or the pool may need cleaning.
You can contact the doctor when your labour starts. If the pool is available and your medical conditions are suitable, you can deliver the baby in water.
Situations Where Childbirth In Water Is Not a Good Option
We have discussed some situations where you might be restricted from using a birth pool. Additionally, there are a couple of other situations which are not ideal for childbirth in water. These include:
- The baby is breech, i.e. born feet-first.
- Meconium (newborn stool) is detected during the second stage of labour.
- You have toxaemia or preeclampsia.
- You have a high temperature and are feeling drowsy.
What are the Risks of Baby Birth in Water?
Here are some of the risks that can occur during the birth of a baby in water:
- An article by the Royal College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists states that the theoretical risk of water embolism is an issue during a water birth. This occurs when the water enters the mother’s bloodstream.
- If the baby experiences stress during delivery or if the umbilical cord gets twisted, the baby might inhale water.
- The mother or the baby could get an infection.
- The umbilical cord might snap before the baby comes out of the water.
- The temperature of a baby born in water can be very high or very low.
- The baby could have seizures or gasp for breath.
- Some doctors believe that the perineum might tear during water birth.
How Do Babies Breathe During Water Birth?
Babies have a natural reflex and breathe through the umbilical cord when they are underwater. Generally, breathing is triggered in babies when they experience a change in temperature. If the pool is at a safe temperature, the baby continues to receive oxygen through its umbilical cord and takes the first breath after it is brought out of the water.
Pros & Cons of Delivering a Baby in Water
Delivering a baby in water has its own share of pros and cons. Let us look at the benefits for mothers and babies and also the dangers of water birth:
Benefits for Mother
- Less risk of a tear – The chances of a perineum tear are less in a water birth because the water softens the tissues, enabling them to stretch easily around the baby’s head while it is being delivered.
- Better use of gravity – The chances of giving birth in a straight position are greater if you are using a birthing pool. The buoyancy of water and an upright position might lead to a quicker and easier delivery because you have the advantage of working with gravity.
Benefits for Baby
You might wonder, why have a water birth? It eases the baby’s transition from the womb to the outside world. This is because a pool/tub is similar to the environment in the womb.
Cons of Delivering in Water
Water birth has some risks associated with it too. These include:
- The baby begins to breathe underwater – If the baby is kept in the water for a longer period, there are chances of the baby beginning to breathe in the water and inhaling water.
- Greater risk of tearing – Although this statement might be contrary to the benefit mentioned above, some doctors believe that the perineum might tear if birthing happens in water.
- Snapped umbilical cord – Water birth complications include the umbilical cord getting snapped before the baby is brought out of the water.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Labouring in Water
The previous section discussed the pros and cons of delivering in water. Now, let us look at the advantages and disadvantages of labouring in water.
Here are the advantages of labouring in water:
- Relaxation – Being tensed affects the contractions. However, the relaxing effect of water helps in the rhythmic contractions and ensures that you and the baby are not stressed.
- Shorter labour – The labour period is quicker because relaxation helps you focus on contractions and delivering soon.
- Privacy and control – When you are in the pool, you are alone and might feel in control, without any disturbance.
- Buoyancy – Water makes it easy for you to move about and gives you comfort during underwater delivery.
- Coping with pain – It is easier to cope with pain because being in warm water makes the contractions bearable. It is similar to having a bath, which eases aches and pains.
- The constant presence of a doctor – Hospital protocols ensure that when you are in a birthing pool, a doctor is monitoring you. When you are on land, there are chances the doctor may move around to attend to other women in labour.
- Natural labour – Being in a pool does not call for medical interventions, and you are more likely to relax and enjoy the process of a normal delivery birth in water.
Here are some of the disadvantages of labouring in water:
- Infections – There might be a risk of infection from the birthing pool, pipes, or your bowels if you have an accident.
- Lack of pain relief – You must be wondering, do water births hurt less? Yes, a water birth does relax you and reduces the impact of pain, but it does not completely eradicate pain.
- Emergency situations – In case of emergencies, it takes time and effort to get out of the pool.
How Much Does It Cost?
If you opt for a water birth in a hospital, it usually costs the same as a normal birthing procedure, but you might have to pay extra for the bath tub.
You can also opt for a home tub if you are delivering at home, wherein you have to spend only for the cost of the tub.
Important Myths About Water Birth
Although water birth is gaining popularity, there are many misconceptions about baby delivery in water tub or birth pool. Some myths about water birth are:
- Infections – People believe that stool released in the water can cause infection. However, the reported infection rates in such scenarios are very less.
- Age limit – If you are healthy and the baby is fine, then age is not a criterion, except in elderly primi mothers.
- Baby drowning – Babies transition into water from the womb, which has a similar environment. This helps the baby to cope better as it will breathe through the umbilical cord. This prevents the baby from drowning or inhaling water.
- All water temperatures are the same during water birth – Water temperatures higher than 98 degrees must be avoided. However, you can opt to have a temperature cooler than 98 degrees.
- Water birth is more painful than birth on a bed – Water causes the perineum to be more relaxed and reduces the pain in mothers-to-be.
The points mentioned above answer common questions like is a water birth better or is water birth less painful. But do remember that every pregnancy is different. Consult your doctor to decide what is appropriate for you and your baby.