What are the 4 most popular birthing techniques?
Throughout the ages, childbirth has been considered to be one of the most beautiful and life-changing experiences. Many expectant mothers, however, especially first-time mothers dread the infamous labour pains that come along with “the miracle of birth”.
With leaping advances in technology and medical care, women have a number of alternatives to choose from while deciding how to deliver their baby. These birthing techniques adopt different ways to manage labour pain and make childbirth easier for the mother as well as the baby. Here we will explore these birthing alternatives in greater detail, exploring the various pros and cons associated with each.
Common birthing techniques
1. Vaginal delivery
Benefits of vaginal delivery
Going into labour and opting for a vaginal delivery generally means spending several hours in the labour room, straining to bring your baby into this world. It is a physically gruelling process which involves a lot of hard work and pain.
However, many women opt for vaginal delivery in-spite of the labour pains because of its benefits in the long run. Vaginal delivery usually means significantly shorter hospital stays and recovery times. The mother also avoids life-long scarring that comes with surgical birthing techniques.
Women opting for vaginal deliveries also avoid the risks associated with major surgery such as bleeding, infection, post-op pain and complications due to anaesthesia. As the you would be more aware during vaginal birth (as compared to post surgery), you can start breastfeeding sooner.
Studies also indicate that vaginal birth is beneficial for the baby as it helps in squeezing out fluid from the baby’s lungs as he/she travels through the birth canal. The baby is also exposed to healthy bacteria in the birth canal which in turn boosts his/her immunity.
Risks of vaginal delivery
Even though vaginal delivery is often thought to be the “best” birthing technique, it does involve a number of risks that every expectant mother should be aware of. Today, medical authorities around the world are mandating that every birthing alternative should be discussed with the to-be parents in detail, enabling them to make informed decisions.
Natural vaginal delivery is associated with risks such as tearing, excessive bleeding (haemorrhaging), injury to pelvic floor muscles amongst others. In some cases, the doctor can make a small incision in the perineum (the area between the vagina and anus) to aid the delivery. This procedure is called an episiotomy. Vaginal delivery can also result in injuries to the baby, if the baby is too large or the labour too intensive and long.
Also, read: Normal delivery – tips & preparation
Benefits of caesarean section
Caesarean section is a surgical birthing technique in which the doctor delivers the baby through incisions in the abdomen and uterus. Opting for caesarean delivery often allows the parents to schedule the procedure. In some cases, it can be an emergency procedure or the only suitable birthing technique available. This is especially true for high risk pregnancies, pregnancies with complications such as gestational hypertension, preeclampsia etc.
Caesarean section is the safest option for mothers if there are any concerns about her health or her baby’s. This surgical birthing method reduces the risk of painful labour, vaginal injuries, heavy bleeding, loss of bladder control, pelvic organ prolapse etc. It also offers the doctor better control of the delivery.
Risks of caesarean section
Like all surgical procedures, caesarean section involves the risks of bleeding, infection, blood clots, surgical injury and complications from anaesthesia. Caesarean section is usually not recommended for first time mothers who want to have more children, as this procedure can cause complications in subsequent pregnancies. These complications include placenta previa, preterm birth etc.
The recovery time for patients who underwent caesarean section is also longer. They are usually kept under observation in the hospital for a few days, post which they can continue recovering at home.
Assisted Vaginal Delivery
Benefits of assisted vaginal delivery
When vaginal delivery is aided by forceps or a vacuum device to pull the baby out, it is called an assisted vaginal delivery. In some cases, such as when the mother becomes too tired to push, forceps or vacuum is used to help her deliver the baby. In case of a forceps assisted delivery, the forceps are inserted into the vagina to gently hold the baby’s head which is then pulled out of the birth canal while the mother is pushing. A vacuum assisted delivery is similar with the exception of a suction cup being used instead of forceps.
Assisted vaginal delivery is usually done if there are any concerns about the baby’s heart rate, if the mother is too tired, the baby is not moving forward in the birth canal and if the mother has any medical condition which limits her ability to push safely.
The main benefit of assisted vaginal delivery is that it helps avoid the need for a caesarean section and the risks involved in the same.
Risks of assisted vaginal delivery
Risks associated with assisted vaginal delivery are very similar to those of normal vaginal delivery. These include injury to the vaginal tissues, perineum and anus. It can also cause injury to the pelvic floor muscles. For the baby, there is an extremely small risk of injury due to improper use of forceps and suction.
Benefits of water birthing
This birthing technique has been around for centuries however, the past few years has seen an exponential rise in the popularity of water birthing. Simply put, it is the process of giving birth inside temperature-controlled water. Some women choose to give birth to their baby while immersed in water, while some women may choose to step out of the birthing pool before giving birth to the baby.
There are numerous benefits of water birthing. Reduction of labour pains is one of the most well-known benefits of water birthing. Many women also say that they felt calmer and more in control while they were immersed in water. They also had a greater sense of privacy. The warm water helps in making the perineum more elastic and relaxed, reducing the risk of injury or tear during birth.
Water birthing is also thought to be less stressful for the baby as he/she enters an environment similar to the womb (amniotic sac).
Risks of water birthing
Like every medical procedure, water birthing has a few risks as well. In case of emergencies such as a baby in distress or increased labour pains, it can become difficult to get the mother out of the birthing pool. Another disadvantage of water birthing is that fetal monitoring is not possible. Water birthing also limits the usage of pain management techniques such as epidurals. Due to such reasons, water birthing is recommended only for healthy non-complicated pregnancies.
There is also a risk of infection if the baby passes stool during delivery. However, these are extremely rare cases.
Today, there are a number of birthing options available to women. Many factors such as personal opinion, maternal and fetal health, pregnancy complications etc have to be considered while deciding which birthing technique to opt for. Remember to have this discussion with your maternity doctor early on in the pregnancy so you can start preparing mentally and physically for childbirth.
Ques 1: Can I have normal delivery after caesarean?
Ans: Yes, these deliveries are termed as VBACs (Vaginal delivery after caesarean section). You can consult an obstetrician who specialises in VBACs to find your suitability for this procedure.
Ques 2: Can my baby be injured during normal vaginal delivery?
Ans: There are a few risks for the baby during normal vaginal delivery. This process is quite painful and long for many women. They can get tired mid labour, causing the baby to get stuck in the birthing canal, the baby can also get hypoxia if he/she gets stuck in their umbilical cord etc. While choosing a maternity hospital, make sure the team is experienced in handling pregnancy emergencies. In such cases, the doctor usually aids the delivery with forceps or vacuum suction cups.
Ques 3: Can caesarean section make it tougher for me to get pregnant again?
Ans: Caesarean sections are known to make future pregnancies difficult, hence it is not recommended for first-time mothers or for women desiring to have more children.
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