As more parents look for alternative choices for labor and delivery, water birth - the process of giving birth in a pool or tub filled with warm water - is gaining popularity worldwide, with over 90 countries offering the service in hospitals or birthing clinics. The Philippines is no exception, with a facility in St. Luke’s Medical Center in Global City (GC) already up and functional.
Dr. Rebecca Singson, head of the Obstetrics/Gynecology Department at St. Luke’s GC and one of the first doctors to perform water birth in the Philippines, has herself witnessed an increased awareness- albeit only a slight increase- of water birth as an option. “There has definitely been an increase in interest in women wanting to do waterbirthing. I get referrals from my colleagues from their patients who want to do waterbirthing, as well as my own patients who express desire to do so.”
The water birth delivery of celebrity mom Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan’s youngest child last year has helped to bring awareness to the public, but apparently most people still opt to do conventional methods of birthing. Dr. Menefrida Reyes, an attending physician who was present for Maricel’s water birth, states,” People like to read or hear about someone, especially a celebrity, doing water birth (and other unconventional/novel ideas); but going through it themselves, especially if it concerns the birth of one’s child, is a different subject altogether.” She does observe, however, that the women who have expressed interest in other birthing options tend to be “educated, widely-read professionals or career women who start establishing their own family at about [the age of] 30 years.”
The Premise of Water Birth Some women choose to have only their labor in water, while others opt to do both labor and delivery in water. A midwife, doula, or other birthing expert stays by the mom’s side, ensuring comfort and safety of her and baby. The water temperature is also closely monitored to make sure it stays within 95 – 100 degrees Farenheit (35- 37 degrees Celsius), about the same temperature as the amniotic fluid that the baby has been living in for the past 9 months. Proponents of water birth contend that the process of birthing from one aquatic environment to another creates a more relaxing experience for the baby. Mothers and midwives alike report that water babies tend to cry less and are calmer after delivery compared to babies born on land.
Initial research thus far has shown no differences in perinatal mortality between water birth and conventional birthing methods. The authors of a 1999 study published in the British Medical Journal stated a 95% confidence in the safety of water births, with water aspiration being a “possible risk” for water births. However, babies have built-in mechanisms that prevent them from aspirating air or water too early, keeping them from inhaling water during a water birth. Keep in mind, however, that every situation is different, and if factors such as poor nutrition or previous illness compromise the baby, such automatic physiological responses may not work properly.