Sure, water birth might offer some pain relief–but is it really safe? Let’s find out

To-be moms, this one’s for you. If you’re thinking of opting for the water birth method, you may want to read this before going ahead.
water birthing
Pregnancy is certainly not a cakewalk and requires you to make wise decisions. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Sonakshi Kohli Updated: 21 Jan 2020, 19:09 pm IST
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From picking out new clothes for the newly-born and getting him/her the most comfy cot possible to choosing the cutest toys for the baby, surely an expecting mother’s life is full of excitement and well—some important decisions.

But did you know that there’s another addition to this list of exciting-but-confusing decisions? We’re talking about deciding the birthing method.

Of course, a C-section or a normal delivery is for the doctor to decide. However, if all’s well and you have received a go-ahead for a normal delivery, you have yet another choice—that of water birthing.

What is a water birth really?
“A water birth is where labour and delivery, either partly or fully happen when the labouring mom is in a birth pool filled with warm water,” says Dr Rajeshwari Pawar, consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Motherhood Hospital, Pune.

Birthing pools are found in a hospital or a birthing center and many women are actually opting for this method. In fact, believe it or not, even the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle wanted to give birth to her child in the pool of her luxurious birthing suite!

Also read: 5 unexpected ways your body might change permanently after pregnancy

Perhaps, these advantages of water birthing is what’s leading to the change
A recent study conducted at the University of Michigan recently revealed that water birthing method is just as safe as the other methods of childbirth and can even reduce the agonising vaginal tears caused during the process.

“The tissues become more supple and result in the easy descent of the foetus through the birthing canal,” Dr. Pawar explains.

water birthing
Before opting for water birth method, know about its pros and cons as well.

Mentioning the other benefits of this birthing method, she says, “Pain relief is a great advantage of water birthing. When the labouring mother is in a pool of lukewarm water and the contractions or labour pain starts, the warmth of the water can be very soothing and calming. Hence, the need for pain relievers or analgesics is reduced.”

This in turn can lead to a better blood circulation, resulting in the relaxation of the back and the perineal muscles.

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“Once the labouring mother is relaxed, the contractions come on better and labour progression becomes smoother,” Dr. Pawar adds.

Also read: Hear it from an ob-gyn: The dos and don’ts of exercising during pregnancy

That’s not it. A standard hospital bed can be quite restrictive for a labouring mother as all she can do is turn right, left, or get into a semi-reclined position, unless, of course, she chooses to get out of bed and walk around. However, a birthing pool allows more freedom of movement during the first stage of labour.

As for those women, who prefer to carry on the second stage and deliver the baby in the pool itself, there’s another piece of great news.

“The foetus is indeed in a pool of water (amniotic fluid) for 9 months. Therefore, it sounds very natural for the baby to make its first passage through water,” states Dr. Pawar.

But are there any risks involved?
From catching pneumonia to falling prey to the life-threatening meconium aspiration syndrome, delivering the baby in water comes with its fair share of risks.

“The second stage of labour, i.e., from the time of full dilatation of the cervix to the delivery of the foetus, should not be done in a birthing pool,” recommends Dr. Pawar.

Additionally, foetal monitoring (taking a trace of the heartbeat and recording the contractions) is also not possible in water. Now, this can cause a great inconvenience to the mother as she might have to intermittently come out of water and on the bed to undergo the monitoring of her unborn baby, according to Dr. Pawar.

She also warns pregnant mothers carrying twins, having high blood pressure issues or other medical complications, and those who’ve previously had a lower segment caesarean section delivery against opting for water birthing.

The final word
“Water birthing is meant for only mothers with no medical risk factors and should be chosen only for the first stage of labour. The delivery of the baby is safer on ‘dry land’ than in a ‘pool of water’,” Dr. Pawar concludes.

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