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Thinking about a water birth? Read this…

Delivery under water is just what it sounds. It is the process of labor and delivery whilst immersed in a water tub. It is sort of a new-age appeal, with proponents and critics alike. A number of health facilities in Kenya offer water births. You will even find birth tubs for hire, or get tempted to deliver in your own bath tub at home. But you should approach water births with caution, there are few proven scientific benefits, but multiple risks.

Available scientific data suggests benefits that include relaxation, less stress and less need for pain relief during the labor. A decrease of about half an hour in the duration of labor has also been reported. It is unclear if there is a decrease in tearing of the birth canal, or indeed a decreased risk of assisted vaginal deliveries or cesarean sections. There are more queries about the benefits for the infant, and concerns for serious harm to the baby still remain.

One of the main risks of water births is infection, either to the mother or the baby. This can be reduced by thorough cleaning of delivery tubs between uses, and carefully selecting those suitable for water births. The infant may drown, swallow the water and get water intoxication, or aspirate the water into the lungs. It is easy to see what might happen when such problems occur, the worst being infant deaths. Snapped cords as the baby is being brought out of the water have also been reported.

You can choose to stay immersed in water only for the first stage of labor, and then get out for the actual delivery. Immersion during the first stage may decrease pain and labor duration, but benefits beyond that are unclear. Immersion during the second stage, when the actual delivery is about to happen, is the period associated with significant risks. In fact, some obstetric authorities advise that immersion in the second stage of labor should be considered experimental, and only performed in the context of a clinical trial and with informed consent.

You need to tick several boxes to qualify for a water birth. The pregnancy must be uncomplicated, and you should be around your due date. You should be free of infections that can easily be transferable in a water medium. Your birth carers must be adequately trained for water births. And the facility must have appropriate processes in place to reduce risks. These include infection control measures and a way of monitoring your baby with underwater compatible cables as appropriate. There must also be a clear protocol of moving you out of the tub if urgent concerns about you or the baby arise.

Steer clear of water births if any doubts arise about safety for you and your expected baby.

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Delivery under water is just what it sounds. It is the process of labor and delivery whilst immersed in a water tub. It is sort of a new-age appeal, with proponents and critics alike. A number of health facilities in Kenya offer water births. You will even find birth tubs for hire, or get tempted to deliver in your own bath tub at home. But you should approach water births with caution, there are few proven scientific benefits, but multiple risks.

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