The midwives and obstetricians of Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi, (AKUH, N) celebrated the successful delivery of the first water birth baby in the purpose built Maternity and Newborn Unit located in the Jimmy Sayani Building.
The maternity ward has been relocated to the second floor of the Jimmy Sayani Building at the University Hospital and consists of state of the art facilities including a ‘birthing pool’. This caters for women wishing to spend time in water to help reduce the amount of pain suffered during labour.
Professor William Stones, Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at AKUH, N said, “In recent years the idea of labour or delivery of a baby in water has become increasingly popular.
We have been offering water birth for the last few years using a portable pool but the new purpose designed facility is available to interested mothers to be on a first come first served basis.”
“Some women find that warm water is very relaxing during the first stage of labour when the contractions are building up. This helps to lessen pain and the buoyancy created by the water aids an expectant mother to move around more easily.”
Talking about the advantages of delivering in water, Professor Stones said, “It is gentle and less stressful to an expectant mother and her baby than birth on ‘dry land’. Many women have described it as a very rewarding birth experience.” “There are some criteria for using the birthing pool. These include the absence of medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV, an uncomplicated natural labour that is not induced and which does not require electronic monitoring of the baby’s heart beat and the mother to be should be expecting a single baby with the head coming first.”
Asked how the baby’s heart is monitored, Professor Stones said, “It is necessary to surface every 15 minutes during the first stage of labour and every five minutes, or after each contraction during the second phase while active pushing is going on for the midwife to listen to the baby’s heart beat.”
Talking about the use of pain relievers while in the pool Professor Stones said, “We have gas and oxygen mixture available for the expectant mothers. In case a need arises for other methods of soothing pain such as an epidural (an injection into a person’s back that blocks the pain of labour) then the mother to be would be asked to leave the pool.” “There is no time limit to how long a woman can stay in the pool as long as the labour is progressing normally and the baby’s heart beat is regular. Midwives are best guided by how the mother-to-be feels. After birth she can leave the pool at leisure, or on the advice of a midwife or obstetrician.”
“When a baby is born, the cold air normally stimulates the first gasp which inflates the lungs. Under water, the baby does not breathe hence does not inhale the water. A baby takes the first gulp of air after surfacing. Babies who have been short of oxygen before birth sometimes gasp too soon, which is why water birth is only appropriate where the labour is going completely normally with no signs of distress.” “We need to make sure that baby does not get cold. The pool water is very warm, about 36 to 37 degrees, but it is vital that the baby is dried off with a warm towel and wrapped up soon after delivery. We also put a warm hat on the baby as a lot of heat can be lost from the head. “
“Expectant mothers are very welcome to visit the new maternity ward of the University Hospital to look at the facilities including the birthing pool when it is not in use,” Professor Stones concluded.