Most women dread their approaching delivery date because they do not want to go through a caesarean section (C-section) or are afraid of labor pains. Health experts suggest that couples can opt for water births, which could be more relaxing, comfortable and less complex.
"It is better than c-section any day; Cesarean involves a lot of complexities; it is, after all, a surgical process of delivering the baby. And what makes water birth better is that this is a completely natural process. It is also a precious moment for a couple to go through the labor hours and witness the birth of the baby together," Kavitha Gautham, founder, Bloom Fertility and Healthcare, Chennai, said.
"Water births help patients deal with labor pains. It results in less use of epidural analgesia for pain relief. It helps the woman in relaxing and alleviates anxiety," said Sushma P. Sinha, Senior Consultant-Obstetrician, Gynecologist and IVF Expert at Indraprastha Apollo.
Water birth is a normal process of delivering the baby where the patient is made to sit in a birth pool that can either be permanently installed or portable. Many patients even opt for portable pools.
According to the health experts, water birthing relaxes the patient and gives a soothing feeling, which lessens pain, therefore making it easier for the patient to deliver.
"The buoyancy of water increases blood circulation resulting in better oxygenation of the uterine muscles, more oxygen for the baby," said Anuradha Kapur, director and head of unit, Institute of Obs and Gynae, Max Smart Super Specialty Hospital.
Gautham suggested that water birth helps the patient to flex her body in a better way; it helps the pregnant woman to change positions easily inside warm water.
So, can all women who are expecting to deliver opt for water birth? Sinha suggested that any woman with more than 37 weeks of pregnancy without any complications with head of fetus being down and patients coming in spontaneous labor without any signs of distress to the baby are eligible to undergo water birth.
"Water birth is not a fancy thing where you can put any woman into that process of delivery. A patient needs to understand the whole process and should be mentally be ready for it," Gautham noted.
However, there are a few precautionary steps needed. Reenu Jain, consultant, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Jaypee Hospital, Noida, pointed out that water birth cannot be performed on women who are expecting twins or a breech baby, those who have earlier undergone a cesarean delivery, have prolonged rupture of membranes and any other complications.
Also, before a patient settles in the pool for delivery, a few facts needed to be looked after. According to the health experts, the basic and foremost step that should be checked is the water temperature.
"The water temperature must be carefully monitored and be maintained at 37 degrees Celsius. Secondly, labor should be established before the woman enters the water and should always be under observation of an obstetrician," Jain explained.
"A waterproof doppler can be used to hear the fetal heart of the baby. When the baby is delivered, the woman should be able to reach down and assist the baby to gently come to the surface of the water. The baby's head must come out of the water," she added.
Although health experts recommended that water births are quite safe and no adverse effects are caused, there remains some risk involved with the new-born baby.
"There remains a chance of the baby drowning if it gets stuck and it may not be able to bring the baby out at the right time. Waterborne infections and cord rupture with haemorrhaging are some other problems that might happen, but these happen in very rare cases," Gautham said.
However, unlike in the West, this concept is yet to grow in India and the major reason, the health experts suggested, is because of a very low doctor to patient ratio.
"In India, the population is huge that the doctors do not have time to give individual attention to every patient. And water birth requires one doctor all the time with the patient during labor hours because it can stretch for long," Gautham pointed out.
"A huge supply of clean water and trained birth supervisors are needed for water birth, which is still not available here. Also, there is hardly any awareness on water births; therefore hardly any couple asks for this facility," Sinha commented.
According to Sinha, Apollo Hospitals was offering pool birth facility, but very few takers forced them to close down the service a year ago.
"The cost of water birth comes between Rs 80,000 and Rs 1.25 lakh and varies from center to center. It can be opted by any couple but unfortunately, people being not so aware of it and lack of certain facilities are pushing it behind," Gautham concluded.
In Kerala, Birth Village, Kochi, offers water birth services.