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Water birth for high-risk pregnancy: When is it appropriate? | Health

Pregnancy is a unique and transformative journey for women but for some, it can be complicated by underlying medical conditions that categorise their pregnancies as “high-risk” and in such cases, careful consideration must be given to the birthing process, including the option of a water birth. While water births are often considered safe and natural for low-risk pregnancies, the appropriateness of this method for high-risk pregnancies requires a more nuanced evaluation.

Water birth for high-risk pregnancy: When is it appropriate? (Photo by Jernej Graj on Unsplash)

Understanding High-Risk Pregnancies

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Aruna Kalra, Senior Gynaecologist and Obstetrician at CK Birla Hospital in Gurugram, shared, “High-risk pregnancies encompass a range of conditions, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, multiple pregnancies (twins or more), and pre-existing medical conditions like hypertension or heart disease. These conditions necessitate close monitoring and specialized care throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Water birth for high-risk pregnancies is a complex topic and whether it’s appropriate depends on various factors.”

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According to her, although all high risk cases are contraindicated for water birth, here are some considerations –

1. Consultation with a Specialist: It’s crucial for women with high-risk pregnancies to consult with an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk care. They can assess the specific condition and discuss the feasibility of a water birth.

2. Individual Assessment: Each high-risk pregnancy is unique, and the decision for a water birth should be made on an individual basis. The severity and stability of the condition will be considered.

3. Monitoring: Continuous monitoring of both the baby and the mother’s vital signs is often necessary during labor and delivery in high-risk pregnancies. Water birth may not be suitable if close monitoring is required.

4. Hospital Policies: Some hospitals and birthing centers have policies against water births for high-risk pregnancies due to safety concerns. Check with the chosen healthcare facility for their guidelines.

5. Availability of Emergency Interventions: In high-risk situations, it’s essential to have quick access to medical interventions like emergency cesarean sections if complications arise. The water birth setting must allow for this.

6. Informed Decision-Making: If a healthcare provider approves a water birth for a high-risk pregnancy, it’s crucial for the expectant mother to make an informed decision after weighing the benefits and risks.

7. Team of Experts: A team of healthcare professionals, including an experienced midwife or obstetrician, should be present during the water birth to manage any potential complications.

Dr Aruna Kalra concluded, “The decision to opt for a water birth in a high-risk pregnancy is a complex one that hinges on several factors. Safety for both the mother and the baby remains the utmost priority. While water births are celebrated for their natural and calming qualities, they may not always be the safest choice in high-risk scenarios. Ultimately, the appropriateness of a water birth for a high-risk pregnancy is determined on a case-by-case basis, considering the individual circumstances and guidance from healthcare specialists. Expectant mothers should engage in open and informed discussions with their healthcare providers to make the best choice for their unique situation, ensuring the safe arrival of their precious little ones.”

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