Water births come to UAE

AL AIN - An age-old birthing practice that is proven to reduce pain but a novel concept in the Arab world is coming to the UAE and is already gaining interest from women across the emirates.

By Olivia Olarte

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Published: Thu 28 Jul 2011, 12:30 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:10 AM

The water birth method will be operational in the region for the first time in the Al Ain Cromwell Women and Children Hospital in Al Ain next month when the hospital opens up its in-patient services.

According to Sandi Blankenship, head midwife at the hospital, water birth is very popular in the UK and the US, and it is common for hospitals with the facility to offer it for women to labour into if not to deliver.

“Typically between 50-70 per cent of women in the US would choose to at least labour in the water,” said Blankenship, who have attended around 700 water births.

Citing its advantages, Blankenship said labouring in water can shorten the length of labour and reduces the pain between 60–70 per cent, due to the warm water temperature (between 35 degree Celsius and 37.5 degree Celsius) which has a soothing effect.

“Because they are in a warm safe environment, they have less fear, and when you have less fear you have less pain,” she explained. In the water birth tub, the woman also has the opportunity to float and she can be in any position she’s comfortable in to labour and deliver.

“It’s really about the woman’s comfort level. You want the baby to come out in an environment he/she used to be in, by coming out into water,” said Blankenship.

She assured that there is no risk of the baby drowning as due to the natural “dive reflex” the baby does not breath until he or she is out of the water. In addition, the baby would still have the umbilical cord and “doesn’t need to take a breath until he/she is out and up,” Blankenship added.

However, water birth is not for everyone. “There is a category of women that is able to fit into the criteria to actually get into the birthing pool for labour and birth. Specific criteria such as low-risk pregnancy, full term and no complication with either the mother or the baby,” said Noreen Healy, director of nursing and midwifery at Al Ain Cromwell.

Blankenship said a lot of expatriate women in the region ‘who are used to it being an option’ have requested for this natural method.

“A lot of educated Emirati women who are now requesting it as well because they have done their research,” she related.

Healy said a number of women in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, who are in their early pregnancies, have already expressed interest to deliver by water at the hospital. Some are already in consultation with the hospital obstetricians.

“Water birth has the special philosophy of caring for women who are in labour and how they choose to give birth,” stated Healy, stressing the importance of active labour and birth, of “giving women choices, control and participation in the decision-making for their care.”

Midwife educator Cecile de Scally, who has worked with numerous mothers in Dubai, was excited with the introduction of the water birth method in the country.

“I am excited as this is the first time in the UAE. It is wonderful news for my clients. Having trained midwives to do this will change the legislation and help in getting it recognised. It is a big step for midwives in the UAE. I think they are doing a fantastic job by going forward,” she commended.

In addition to water birth, Al Ain Cromwell will provide a range of acute care specialities for women and children including obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, neonatology, surgery, internal medicine, dental care, family medicine, urgent care, dietary and nutrition and physiotherapy.

It also has a spa for ladies, swimming pool and gymnasium, massage treatment and beauty therapy rooms.

The hospital also provides education on natural active birthing, water birthing, nutrition and breast feeding and will have exercises, pilates, yoga and aqua-natal classes that are designed specifically for pregnant women.

“It will really become a part of a healthy lifestyle of ladies and families in Al Ain integrated in hospital services. It is a very new concept for this area and for the country,” said Rob Cross, CEO of Al Ain Cromwell.

Spread over 16,000 square metres, the boutique hospital has 50 single occupancy rooms, 42 deluxe rooms, six VIP suites and two royal suites. It has three birthing suites, one with a water birth pool and a birth stool.

The hospital hopes to have around 3,000 deliveries a year, including “several hundred water births,” said Cross.


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