December 23, 1992
By Nutan Pandit
Do you want your baby to come into the world with a big smile on his face? And one who’ll grow up to be sensitive, caring and creative? It’s simple: give birth in water. So say scientists in the west!
According to Dr. Michel Odent, the pioneer of water birth in the west, babies born in water are different from other babies. Such babies are more sensitive and creative, less destructive and more concerned about the future and about saving our planet from destruction. Dr. Odent feels that as more babies are born under water it will give rise to the ‘sexual man.’ That is, an emotionaly secure and complete man will emerge unlike his bossy, destructive ancestors. It will give rise to a generation of human beings not born with the psychology of world conquest
Dr. Michel Odent started off as the only general surgeon at a general hospital in Pithivers, France. He was in charge of all surgical operations, orthopedic, appendix, gall stones and caesareans. When he tried to understand the illness of his adult patients, he felt “the true cause always lay in the patient’s early infancy, in the mother-child relationship”
This led Dr. Odent to feel that the work at the maternity unit was more important than operating on the stomach cancer of an old woman. He strongly believes that what happens during birth and in the last hours and days prior birth can crucially affect the emotional and sexual health of a person
It is claimed that babies born under water will develop twice as fast physically and mentally as compared to children delivered by conventional methods on dry land. Interestingly, many babies born under water are born smiling! The baby cannot drown in water at birth since it gets the supply of oxygen through the umbilical cord, until the cord stops pulsating, which is several minutes after birth. Within two minutes of birth the baby should be brought gently to the surface to breathe. The cooler air outside the warm water (the temperature of the water should be between 95ºF to 101ºF or 36ºC to 38ºC roughly body temperature) triggers the first breath. The warm water in the pool is similar to the warm water in the womb, so that the baby’s welcome to the world is a warm one!
Like all babies who are gently born, water babies rarely cry. Moreover, they are immediately cuddled by the mother, so that both mother and baby benefit from early physical contact. Babies born thus are very alert and their apgar scores are as high as 9 or 10. Apgar scores at birth are an index to the baby’s condition at birth. The optimum well being of a baby would indicate a score of 10. The number lowers as the baby’s condition deteriorates. That is, a baby with weak reflexes or with a bluish skin colour would score less
Water birth is also gentle on the mother. There is less risk of tearing as the water softens the skin and helps the perineal tissues to stretch. It is possible to deliver the placenta in the water, but it is best to leave the water as blood loss cannot be assessed accurately in water. There has never been any case of water embolism, that is, water entering the mother’s blood stream via the uterus
Dr. Odent’s experience with most obstetricians has been the fear of infection. Dr. Odent reported in the English Medical journal, “Lancer” –
“We had no infectious complications, even when the membranes were already broken.” According to Janet Balaskas in her book “New Active Birth”, “There is no evidence of increased infection in any other centre where water births take place. In fact, it is considered that the use of a water pool might reduce the risk of infection, especially in a hospital where infection from ‘foreign’ bacteria in the air is more likely.” She further states, “The immersion in warm water tends to lower high blood pressure caused by anxiety and certainly reduces pain. This is due to the loss of the effects of gravity and is also thought to be due to fall in catecholamine production (hormones like adrenaline), and an increase in the secretion of endmorphines (hormones which are natural relaxant painkillers) caused by the warmth of the water.”
If a pool of water is not available to a woman, she can take a warm water bath or shower instead. If a woman wants to have water birth, when she wants to enter the water depends entirely on her. Some woman who decide to enter the water, suddenly deliver as they watch the pool filling up! The best time to enter the pool is probably when labour is well established and there is approximately five cm. dilation of the mouth of the womb or cervix. The water tends to speed up dilation. If a mother experiences severe discomfort in early labour she can enter the pool in early labour. If on entering the pool labour slows down and stop, she can leave the pool and enter again when labour generally re-establishes
Being in warm water provides pain relief. As Dr. Odent says, “On entering the pool, the mother often gives a great sigh, expressing relief and well being.” The water also offers privacy and security. Once in the water, women tend to alter their breathing and naturally shift from one position to another. According to Dr. Odent water tends to “liberate their instincts”
Many women who intended to use water only for pain relief, ended up staying in it for the birth, since they were too comfortable to leave the water. On the other hand, some women who wanted to give birth in water decided to get out of the water before birth. The cooler air outside the pool and the effect of gravity often triggers birth very quickly.
In the “Lancer”, Dr. Odent says, “It should be possible for any conventional hospital to have a pool situated close to the delivery room and operation theatre. Immersion in water is an efficient, easy and economical way to reduce the use of drugs.” Water has been used for delivery successfully and with encouraging results in U.K, north America, Belgium, Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealan
However, there are times when it is best to leave the water. Say, for instance if the second stage is not progressing rapidly in water, as may happen, in case of an unusually large baby. A mother can also leave the water if she feels like it. In case of a breech birth or a birth in which the placenta is not functioning efficiently, it is best to deliver in a squatting position
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