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Water Birth: The Most Natural Form of Normal Birth

When on one hand, we are seeing a rising trend of women in India opting for caesarean section without any medical requirement, we are also witnessing a renewed interest and focus on normal and natural forms of birth(water birth).

The fact that a natural birth (unless it is a case of high-risk pregnancy and it is necessary based on medical advice) is safer than a caesarean section has been widely acknowledged by the medical fraternity.

Kalki Koechlin, a highly successful mainstream Bollywood actress recently revealed her plans of undergoing a natural vaginal water birth.

She has also spoken to the media about herself being delivered through water birth. Kalki supports natural birth and is willing to undergo this method to bring her bundle of joy to this world. In this light, the interest in delivery in water in India has been ignited.

With an increasing focus on natural vaginal birth, more and more women are showing interest in water birth delivery.

A water birth means that labour and delivery or both of these events happen when the mother has immersed the lower part of her body in a pool of water.

According to international guidelines, labour and birth if it happens in water are beneficial for both the mother and the baby.

What is water birth?

Water birth is a process of undergoing labour and delivery in a specialised birthing pool when the mother has been immersed in water. Some women may prefer to opt for a water birth in the initial stages of labour, they might prefer to deliver the baby outside the tub.

Whereas, some females might opt for the entire delivery process within the birthing tub or pool consisting of water which is maintained at an optimum temperature.

One of the major theory supporting water birth comprises of the fact that a baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac for 40 weeks of its gestational life, continuing a similar environment at the time of birth can help in the process of delivery and be more comfortable and less stressful for both the baby and the mother.

Benefits of water birth

  • Since the baby has been in the amniotic fluid sac for nine months, birthing in a similar environment is gentler for the baby and less stressful for the mother.
  • Giving birth in water is relaxing and calming for the mother thus reducing the stress of labour and delivery which is known to reduce fetal complications.
  • Women are able to focus better on the actual birthing process being more relaxed.
  • Increased relaxation allows women to dilate more quickly resulting in shorter labour.
  • Submersion in water helps with pain relief. The buoyancy in water enables a woman to move more easily and change positions. This freedom of movement eases pain sensation.
  • Giving birth in water reduces the chances of medical interventions.

It is advisable to understand the protocols and requirements of the hospital prior to the water birth. A female can wear a bikini or a tankini during the birthing process.

Some might even prefer to go for a completely naked procedure. It is completely up to the woman based on what she is comfortable in.

Process of Water Birth: what to expect?

The process of water birth can be very different for different women. It usually begins with the onset of labour pain. The pain intensifies when the women is in active labour. In the active labour phase, the woman is asked to get inside the pool of warm water.

The temperature of the warm water is monitored carefully and kept at 37.8 degrees. The woman may choose to take in Entonox or a gaseous analgesic as a pain reliever.

Partners are usually allowed during the birthing experience. An experienced obstetrician and a well-trained nurse will be taking care of you. The partner can play a supportive role in relaxing the spouse.

As soon as the baby is born, he/she is taken out of the tub and put on the mother’s chest.

Risks of Water Birth

Though this is one of the most preferred modes of natural vaginal birth nowadays, with a normal baby being delivered in water, it does carry certain risks.

  • The baby or the mother may acquire certain infections if the hospital does not manage infection control.
  • It is possible that the umbilical cord gets snapped even before the baby is taken out of the birthing tub. Hence, proper medical supervision is required.
  • There are chances that the body temperature of the baby can get too low or too high.
  • The baby might get exposed to the water within the tub and initiate breathing there which can lead to adverse consequences.

Needless to say, hospitals need to follow proper guidelines to undertake water births.

Who can undergo a Water Birth?

  • Women of have had an uncomplicated pregnancy of 37 plus weeks.
  • Babies should be positioned head-down (cephalic).
  • Healthy women with no pre-existing medical problems.
  • Women expecting only one baby (single birth).
  • Fetus with a normal heart-rate.

Who cannot undergo a Water Birth?

Some health conditions can render a woman unfit for a water birth. These are:

  • Age of pregnant women above 35 years or below 17 years.
  • If the women have any infection.
  • If she is a diabetic or have preeclampsia.
  • Expecting twins or multiple births.
  • If the baby is being delivered prematurely.
  • If the baby is too big for its age.

Water Birthing facility

  • The hospital which provides water birth facility must have a topmost level of infection controls.
  • Well-equipped birthing tub with equipment for monitoring of the temperature of the water.
  • Waterproof equipment, monitoring of the condition of the baby and the mother.
  • Another important requirement is that the doctor and the nurses should have expertise in water birth. It is recommended that the hospital should have proper neonatology support in case it is required for the baby.

Many women wonder if water birth is better than natural birth.

The answer to this question lies in the fact that different women have different levels of tolerance to pain. Pain being a subjective symptom varies widely from one person to another.

Waterbirth is indeed more relaxing and comfortable than normal vaginal birth, but not less painful.

Certain factors associated with temperature and the buoyant force of the water may alter the pain sensation, but not reduce pain per se.

The cost of water birth is variable depending on the health care facility and the level of care being provided.

Conclusion

To sum it up, this is the most natural form of vaginal birth. It gives the woman a sense of relaxation and comfort which eases her up during the process of labour and delivery.

The pain perception was reported to be lesser and the entire process was less stressful.

Hospitals also make it more comfortable for the women by providing soothing music, aromatherapy and dim lighting which alleviates the anxiety related to delivery and helps in releasing hormones which make the labour and delivery easier and less painful.

Women have reported having better experiences when they delivered in water pools as compared to normal delivery.

Author: Dr Astha Dayal
Dr. Astha Dayal is an esteemed obstetrician and gynaecologist in Gurgaon. She cleared her MRCOG certification in London, UK, and is a member of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynecological Societies of India. She has over 16 years of experience in the medical and surgical management of women’s health with an emphasis on high-risk pregnancies as well as advanced laparoscopy.
 
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