A Response to Why you should not give Birth Underwater

A Response to Why you should not give Birth Underwater

(article written by Cathryn Feral)

Description: Giving birth to babies underwater is becoming popular as a “natural alternative” to routine hospital deliveries. An experienced midwife offers advice about “water births.”

Copyright 2001 by PageWise, Inc.

Here is the article itself:

Are you an expectant parent who is considering giving birth to your baby underwater? I urge you, please, think again! Perhaps delivering underwater may provide some pain relief for some mothers. So do narcotics and other drugs. But is partial pain relief worth the risks to mother and baby? What are my credentials for offering you advice? I’ve been a midwife specializing in home births for more than twenty-four years. In that time I’ve never lost a baby during labour or birth, or lost a baby to a birth injury. And I have given birth to five children–4 at home, 1 in the hospital.

Well if anyone can figure out a way to get a hold of this person, I’d love to point out a few things that she obviously “doesn’t get”. And how exactly does being a midwife for 24 years make her an expert on waterbirth when she has not performed any or (as is so very obvious) even actually researched the topic???

Here are five of the reasons why I believe, fervently, women should NOT give birth underwater. Number One: In our society, we tend to overlook an obvious truth: NO MOTHER OR BABY HAS EVER DIED OR SUFFERED BRAIN DAMAGE FROM THE PAIN OF CHILDBIRTH. But mothers and babies have been damaged and killed by analgesic drugs–including those touted as being “perfectly safe for mother & baby.” And there is a real physical potential for babies and mothers to be injured and killed by this so-called “natural” method of pain relief (more on this later.)

What the heck relevance does this have to waterbirth? She is citing the use of drugs as dangerous and then seems to say that because drugs are dangerous, so must be waterbirth… HUH? That’s like saying crack cocaine is bad to smoke, so you should not eat chocolate bars.

Number Two: UNDERWATER DELIVERY IS ABSOLUTELY UNNATURAL. A basic inherent part of the normal birth process is the baby’s slipping out of the mother’s body directly into the air and taking that vital first breath. Delivering underwater–deliberately delaying the natural transition of birth–is found nowhere in human history or prehistorical traditions. There’s nothing natural about it. Even in the animal world, every air-breathing creature gives birth or lays eggs on land whenever possible. Even sea turtles and seals, who live happily in the sea, take great pains to deliver their young safely on land. The few air-breathing creatures who can’t, such as whales & dolphins, compensate by giving birth to their babies tail-first to minimize the risk of drowning. A few years ago a Beluga whale at the Vancouver Aquarium (Vancouver B.C.) died during delivery because it was born (abnormally, for a whale) head first. Human babies born underwater face unnatural health risks no baby should have to face. And their mothers face unnecessary risks, too

Umm so basically she is saying that our physiology is the same as animals so we should do what animals do? So, what do we need midwives for, might as well call a vet. By this logic they would know as much about human birth as this midwife. She seems to miss the point that the idea is to give the baby a cushion while it is still supported by the umbilicus and placenta. We wouldn’t birth a child into water if they weren’t connected the way they have been surviving for the last 9 months… by her logic if the baby could drown in the pool before the cord is cut, the baby could just as easily drown in the amniotic sac if it did not break before the baby’s head emerged or even while still in the womb. What is she trying to say here? Also she fails to take into account the fact that we have a much deeper psychology and much larger memory capacity than animals. Since we are intelligent beings we can certainly put a little more thought into how or where we give birth than the instinctual drive of your average manatee. As a new-born infant surely senses and feels and gets its first impression of the world from the moment of birth it only makes sense to make the first memories and impressions as gentle as possible (I’m sure her response would be that an infant would be very distressed to come into the world and have the first impression that mother is trying to drown it though… duh). And gee, laying eggs on land as opposed to the water.. HUH? Eggs being compared to live mammalian birth? This has some relevance how?

Number Three: Underwater advocates often argue that drowning isn’t a risk because “babies don’t breathe at the moment of birth” or “babies don’t breathe in until they are exposed to the air. BOTH ARGUMENTS ARE SIMPLY UNTRUE. Babies often breathe when they are half-in, half-out and waiting for a final push to deliver them into the world. Babies sometimes breathe the moment their head delivers. I once caught a baby who poked his head out of his mama, promptly breathed in, then sneezed loudly. Fortunately he had good clean air available.

A baby being born into air half in and half out of the mother is still IN THE AIR… DUH, hello? It might breathe halfway out when air hits its face, but this has no relevance for a baby born underwater who has not yet experienced air and has not yet had the breathing reflex triggered. A very important part of this that perhaps she doesn’t understand is the mammalian diving reflex that we are all born with… by automatic reflex, we DON’T BREATHE WATER/LIQUID when our face is immersed, same as whales don’t accidentally breathe in through their blowhole before they get to the surface of the water.

When a baby needs oxygen, s/he will breathe in reflexively, whether or not air is available. Some babies even breathe before birth, inhaling amniotic fluid and their own fecal matter (meconium). This is life-threatening and usually can’t be prevented. But once a baby delivers, it’s both commonsense and kindness to make air available immediately!

This is another bonehead statement quite frankly. The biggest cause of meconium aspiration from the extensive research we did before our daughter was born (and some since she was born) is stress in the mother being transferred to the infant or the infant being in distress. Since it is proven that waterbirth reduces stress on the infant and mother, that means the chances of them inhaling prematurely are reduced by waterbirth and therefore LESS likely to happen. If the baby is brought into the world gently and stress-free they aren’t likely to breathe when they aren’t supposed to.

Number Four: UNDERWATER, POTENTIALLY INFECTIOUS MATTER CAN EASILY FLOAT INTO VULNERABLE AREAS. In a natural birth, the uterus and birth canal are flushed out by amniotic fluid, the passage of the baby and finally the placenta. Any foreign material is naturally washed away from the body. For example,(no one wants to talk about this outloud, but it’s true,) when a woman pushes out her baby, it is more common than not that she will also push out a bit of fecal matter. Sometimes more than a bit. Even if she’s in one of those retro-hospitals where pre-delivery enemas are still common, she’s likely to push out the last of the enema–which is especially messy. In a normal delivery this really is no big deal when one delivers with a competent midwife or doctor. Any fecal matter is easily wiped away before the baby delivers, and usually no one in the room even notices. Underwater, though, bacteria-laden material (such as maternal feces) can float freely into vulnerable areas–mother’s vagina, lacerations, baby’s eyes. This won’t cause infection in every case, but it certainly poses a risk that can easily be avoided by simply delivering in the air. Poop doesn’t float on air.

First, baby has been living in mom so any germs mom has baby most likely has, or will have after a very short time following their birth with contact with mom. Second, since the water is there it is instantly flushing away the “offending faecal matter”. By her own words she is talking about a “small amount” of material which is more easily removed in water than on land, in actual fact. And I believe Dr. Odent says “the solution to pollution is dilution” when it comes to birth in water. She also cites another totally irrelevant fact… retro hospitals that give enemas before/during early labour most likely aren’t going to be having a birth pool. Once again she cites situation C to support her concerns about situation A when there is no connection between the two. Also, I have to wonder what decade this woman was born in, that poop would be something that “no one wants to talk about out loud”. My grandmother used to be squeamish about talking about poop.. she would whisper it if it was mentioned at all. She was born in the 1920s. Does she come from an era with outhouses only, and doesn’t realise that poop floats in the toilet water, making it easier to take away with a net, rather than having it smeared all over mom and the bed and the birth attendant etc etc.

Number Five: WATER MAY MASK ESSENTIAL SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS. Evaluating the color, amount and odor of amniotic fluid gives midwives, nurses and doctors vital information about an unborn baby’s well-being and about what on-going healthcare is appropriate for that mother and baby. Evaluating amniotic fluid is easy when it drips onto a towel or underpad. You can smell the slightest odor of infection and see the smallest trace of meconium or blood. These can easily go undetected underwater. Also it’s vital to keep track of maternal blood loss, and there’s simply no way to do this accurately when the blood is diluted in a pool full of water (and people).

Okay, there is no way to respond to this… she’s right! You won’t know what the amniotic fluid was like. However, what about those mothers whose water breaks at home on the toilet or the kitchen floor or in the bus depot. Does the doc/midwife run down and sniff the floor of the car in the hospital parking lot because her water broke on the way to the hospital? If this is the only way to tell “certain vital information” then all pregnant women will have to start carrying a bag to catch their amniotic fluid in ’cause that medical professional is going to have a terrible time knowing what’s wrong without that fluid! Its also not all that difficult to tell if mom continues to bleed into the pool. No, you can’t get an exact amount of blood loss while it is in the water but you can certainly tell if it is excessive or if the water continues to darken or if the water is being changed it does not lighten. Add to that the telltale signs that any good medical professional or even first aider can pick up when it comes to shock or excess blood loss… when someone bleeds internally do we have to cut a hole in them to see that they are losing blood? No, we can tell by observing lips, gums, around the nostrils and other areas that immediately react when blood is being lost.

Underwater birth may relieve some of the pain, but ask yourself, in light of the health considerations, is it worth it?

Pain relief is not the only reason for choosing waterbirth, but she seems to think that it is. Once again we are forced to wonder what era her training took place in, as its only in the last decade and a half to 2 decades that birth attendants have begun to accept the fact that a new-born is a sentient, feeling and responsive human being as opposed to simply an object at birth. Giving a child less of a shock at the beginning of life has proven to have long term benefits through research, from Leboyer to Odent to Rosenthal and beyond. The fact is, in light of the beneficial health considerations that are proven through research on waterbabies, is NOT giving birth in water “worth it”?

Please, think twice and again before about choosing to force your baby to go undergo an unnecessary obstacle at birth–an artificial and potentially dangerous water hazard. Written by Cathryn Feral

Please think twice and again before taking advice from someone who clearly doesn’t even understand basic physiology and yet holds themselves out as an expert!

RIL, (SoulMates rjsoulmates@ns.sympatico.ca)
Water Babies Rise to the TOP!!


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