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All about water birth: A traditional practice that is gaining popularity these days

Pregnancy involves mindful decisions, good care and good nutrition. It’s not just for you, but for your baby. As an expecting mother, you would want the best for them – first things first, a healthy environment both inside and outside. 

And so, you would scroll the internet reading health magazines and blogs enlightening you on how to take care of your baby during pregnancy. They may give you all sorts of advice, and among them would be water birth. 

But should you trust the internet when it comes to your baby? Well, some websites do state the truth, others are based on lack of research. 

We won’t be telling you if water birth is something you should go for. Rather, we’ll just state the pros and cons and let you decide with adequate information in hand. 

So, let’s start with the basics, shall we? 

The practice of waterbirth – immersion in water during portions of labour and delivery – is increasing worldwide. Many advocates for natural or physiological birth argue that as compared to traditional hospital deliveries, the technique is an excellent birth choice for women interested in having drug-free pain relief or a low-intervention vaginal birth.

Proponents claim that it presents women with an opportunity to preserve the natural rhythms of birth, to be heard and to take charge of their own destiny, rather than simply serving as a conduit for birth.

The body of literature surrounding the practice of natural birthing techniques claim that there are several advantages to water births, such as pain alleviation without the need for medication and relaxation. Most notably, it is frequently associated with a more satisfying and happy birthing experience.

The idea of water births has a long history that can be traced back to traditional societies when childbirth rituals and practices were frequently passed down through the generations of women in secrecy. In the warm seas off the South Pacific islands, there is one of the most famous water birth stories in history. These societies’ women were drawn to the water to give birth because they found peace and solace in the natural environment. The use of water during childbirth has been documented in Europe since 1805. However, the use of water during childbirth was not recognised as a legitimate method of delivering in medical settings until the last few decades.

But water births have their own set of hazards and considerations, just like any medical treatment. Before we get to them, let’s consider the benefits. 

Benefits

Proponents of the practice claim that choosing a water birth—or even just spending the first part of your labour in water—allows the ‘would-be-mothers’ to enjoy some of the advantages.

Reduces labour pain: 

One of the purported advantages of water birthing is that it helps reduce labour pain since the water’s buoyancy and the relaxation of the muscles and tissue are helpful.

Minimises the need for medication: 

According to one study, during water births, a hormonal and chemical reaction occurs that affects oxytocin and helps control the force of the contractions. More oxytocin and pain-blocking endorphins are released as the body relaxes, which may lead to a reduction in the requirement for prescription drugs.

Reduces intensity of tearing: 

Water relaxes the perineum lessens the force of vaginal tearing. One study contrasted 2,025 land births with 397 water births. It was discovered that both delivery methods were equally safe and that there were less first- and second-degree tears among the participants in the water group. The study also found that postpartum haemorrhage rates and admissions to neonatal critical care were comparable between land and water births.

Reduces labour time: 

In one study, researchers discovered that water helps reduce the duration of labour during all three phases. They mention that this might be connected to psychological variables, muscle relaxation, and movement in the water. Furthermore, a different study came to the conclusion that water births are not only safe, but occasionally even more successful than land births.

Lessens the requirement for intervention:

Studies have also connected water birth to a lower requirement for obstetric procedures like episiotomy or induction. Although some available data contradicts this. 

Water birth risks and complications

Water birth, particularly during the first stage of labour is an extremely fulfilling birthing experience. However, the technique is not a game where you put any woman in the bathtub and she delivers a baby. There are various precautions that need to be kept in mind for water birth.

When delivery takes place outside of a hospital setting, there’s a possibility of increased risk due to unavailability of immediate emergency medical help in case of changes in the baby’s heartbeat or the mother’s blood pressure.

Additionally, there is a risk of drowning and near-drowning, as well as asphyxiation, as risks of possible water birth complications.

There is also a possibility that if the baby possibly stays underwater too long, their lungs could fill up with water.

Infection for baby: 

Water birth means sitting, pushing, and delivering in a tub. This often includes faeces in the tub. A baby born in this environment can possibly swallow the tub water contaminated with vaginal discharge and rectal flora, increasing the likelihood of an infection.

Closing thoughts

As an alternative to conventional hospital deliveries, water immersion has been commonly linked to a more positive and fulfilling birth experience. But it also carries risks and complications as listed above. 

Having said that, it is recommended that expectant mothers should carefully assess the risks and benefits, consult with healthcare professionals, and choose what aligns with their preferences and medical needs.

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