Why are waterbirths a good option for expectant mums?
A warm bath takes away the stress of anyone’s day and aids relaxation. In labour, water can have a similar effect, reducing anxiety and helping women focus on the process of labour and birth. The effect of water can be very powerful – helping to relieve pain, boosting oxytocin and dilatation of the cervix, stretching the birth canal and offering the baby a smooth transition into the world. Fathers also comment on the calming properties of water. The buoyancy makes it easy to move and find comfortable positions. Equally, the depth of the pool allows a woman the privacy and security to labour naturally.
Are they less painful?
Yes. Immersion in warm water reduces stress hormones which can in turn increase the release of natural pain relieving endorphins. Water offers a natural method of pain relief to women in labour. Water also stimulates the skin’s nerve endings, sending messages through the nerve pathways to block pain messages from the uterus.
Is there a risk to the baby when it is delivered under water?
Concern about safety is common for expectant parents, however research and experience have shown that water is safe when there is appropriate care. Babies will not breathe until they are in contact with the cooler air above the water. Babies also have a diving reflex which prevents breathing under water. Midwives monitor the baby throughout the labour and when there are any signs that the baby may be stressed the mother is asked to leave the pool.
Can you have pain medication in conjunction with a water birth – or does it have to be completely natural?
For most women it is completely natural. There may be times at the end of the first stage of labour when women use gas and air but this is not usual.
How well has the unit been received?
We opened our hospital recently and happily we have received tremendous public interest regarding our philosophy of active birth and waterbirth from across the Middle East. We do, however, provide all levels of care for women in labour, such as those who require medical intervention such as epidural, instrumental birth and caesarean section.
How are water births priced compared with other methods?
Waterbirth is natural – this reduces the cost because of reduced needs for medication and medical intervention. Our waterbirth delivery package costs Dhs3,500.
How involved can fathers be in the process?
Fathers offer support by being present throughout the whole experience. They know their wife and can often voice her wishes and concerns so that they both understand the process.
Is there any documented evidence to suggest that water births are better for babies?
Waterbirth is gentle. Women are upright and mobile in labour, thus maximizing the transfer of oxygen to the baby. Waterbabies are calmer, because they are often greeted by a mother who is calm and relaxed. Because there are no medications used, waterbabies will often breastfeed more successfully and have fewer complications, such as newborn jaundice.
Is it hygienic?
Yes – birth pools are cleaned thoroughly before use so the mother and baby are protected from infection. Midwives wear gloves and take additional precautions to provide a clean and safe water environment. Birth pools are monitored continuously for any bacteria by microbiological testing.
Does the water stay at a constant temperature?
The midwife will ensure the temperature of the water is maintained. Ideally this will be approximately at 36.5˚C, which is below the mother’s body temperature so that she will remain comfortable throughout labour. The baby is also sensitive to any rise in the mother’s temperature.
Do the midwives have to be specially trained in water birthing?
Yes – waterbirth requires specific midwife skills and training. Midwives need to monitor the mother without intrusion and provide maximum support. Midwives are required to follow the hospital policies and specific criteria for women who wish to have a waterbirth. There is no substitute for good midwifery and obstetric care.
Can you monitor the baby’s heart while in the tub?
Yes. This is a very important element of care. The priority always is the safety of the mother and baby. The midwife is required to keep her records as she would any labour and birth.
How long can you stay in the water if the labour is prolonged?
When the labour is prolonged or complicated the mother or baby may need help. The mother is advised to leave the pool as medical intervention may be required. Despite many advantages, the use of water for birth is not everyone’s choice. Women can choose to labour in water because of the natural pain relief and give birth on dry land. With trusted care women will know and choose on the day what feels right for them.
For more information on water births, contact the Al Ain Cromwell Women and Children’s Hospital. www.alaincormwell.com (03 799 0000).