Health & Environment

Water birth yet to gain acceptance

Already popular in the West, when will water birth be a legit alternative to painful traditional delivery methods for expecting moms in Hong Kong?

Childbirth is always associated with excruciating pain, constant screaming and lots of pushing. While water birth has gained popularity in the West a gentle alternative for labouring, it is yet to have its day in Hong Kong.

Water birth, a childbirth that occurs in water, is expected to cause the expecting mother less pain by offering perineal support, which decreases the risk of tearing and reduces the use of episiotomy.

"I recently gave birth to a son in a birthing pool. I had a profoundly positive experience." Said Stephanie Chung, 32 and a mother of two.

"When I had my first child through regular labor, it was quite difficult, because I had such a weak body and it got worst as I was trying to recover after giving birth, " said Chung, adding that she had only heard positive feedbacks about water birth.

Chung found out about water birth from one of her friends in Canada, who has benefited from water birth. Chung remained skeptical of this procedure until she consulted the doctor. She decided to give it a try.

It is said that the warm water provides a calming influence and a relaxing atmosphere to the mother in labor.

"In the process of water birth, my skin was less likely to tear because the water softened and stretched my skin. The water was body temperature so that it was not as hot as a bath. As my body heated up during labor, the water was very refreshing," added Chung.

While water birth is nothing new in many countries, Hong Kong seems to be a step behind, in terms of public acceptance and proper facility.

"Water birth is a relatively recent development in the Western world and has become very popular overseas. yet here in Hong Kong, people know so little about it," said Mr. Cheung Kwok-leung, an obstetrician who has been in the gynecology field for more than 15 years.

He confirmed that laboring in water can help the mother to fully realize her primordial power to take control of labor pain and optimize the birth experience.

Although laboring in water seems to be a better delivery method for pregnant women, hospitals in Hong Kong have not been equipped with proper facilities for safe water birth.

Candy Li See-wai, an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) nurse at the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital - Tai Po Hospital said, "As giving birth in water is not yet endorsed or supported in hospitals in Hong Kong, the lack of sanitization of the equipment being used make the process  risky for mothers and their new born."

Another concern that Chung had before deciding to try out water birth was not being able to have an epidural or to be drugged for the delivery.

"Midwifes or doula are not allowed to give out drugs to the woman in labor as they are not certified to do such things," Said Cheung.

In deed, there is no birthing center or home birth allowed under the system in Hong Kong for water birth, the only exception is to hire a doula, who can bring a birthing pool to help during the process of labor.

Chung added that because of the scarcity of support for water birth in Hong Kong, it was difficult to find a midwife who would agree to what she had planned for her labor, as it is not an endorsed process for expecting mothers.

"Unfortunately, water birth is very unpopular here, hospitals do not usually authorize or recommend it at all." Said Doctor Cheung.

"But I know for a fact that if an expecting mother is willing to compromise, the Matilda International Hospital allows women to spend some of their labor time in a hot warm bath and just get out for when the baby is ready to be delivered."

 

Reported by Rachel Leung

Edited by Coco Zheng

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