Even though the act of giving birth has stayed the same over the centuries, the way women go about it has been evolving over time.
In the early 1800s, pain relief for childbirth was in the form of chloroform ― a colourless, sweet-smelling liquid that knocks out a person in an instant. A woman in labour was given a sniff of it to help her sleep through her delivery.
In the early 1900s, this horrifying practice was replaced with an equally disturbing one called twilight sleep. It involved injecting a pregnant patient with a lethal combination of drugs to relieve pain and motion sickness, such as morphine and scopolamine. This made them fall into a semi-comatose state, so they didn’t remember much about the procedure.
Thankfully, things started looking up for expectant women several decades later when they were able to give birth at home. Thankfully, safer options have been available to the fairer sex once advancements in modern medicine kicked in, coupled with a greater interest in natural childbirth.
Take a look at the following six options and it seems that our choices aren’t just getting wider, but also a bit wilder!
Trend #1: Lotus birth
What is it: It involves keeping the placenta intact and connected to baby after delivery, until the umbilical cord falls off naturally in seven to 10 days.
Pros: It promotes bonding between mother and child. “There will also be slightly more blood flowing to the baby,” notes SmartParents consultant ob-gyn Dr Christopher Chong.
Cons: There’s always a risk of infection. The placenta/cord can be tugged at when you’re moving the baby around and this can cause abrasions on the cord or even bleeding.
Who is it not suitable for? Premature babies who need to be monitored at the neonatal intensive care unit or require special care. Also, those born with infections or who are more prone to infections. It’s also discouraged for babies who were delivered early because they have a condition known as reversal of blood flow. “This causes the blood to flow from foetus to mother through the umbilical cord when in the womb, instead of the other way round, which is how it should be,” explains Dr Chong. “If a lotus birth is done on such a patient then the blood will continue to flow from baby to mum, after birth and until the umbilical cord falls off. This can be detrimental to the newborn’s health.”
Trend #2: Delayed cord clamping
What is it: The umbilical cord, which has been sustaining bub in utero, is usually cut within 30 seconds of his arrival into the world. This practice discourages the cord from being clamped as long as it’s pulsating and still sending blood to your little one. Pulsating usually can take anywhere between three and five minutes to stop. “Sometimes, even up to an hour,” notes Dr Chong. Once pulsation stops, blood flow stops.
Pros: The extra blood at birth will help babies who are anaemic (lack of healthy red blood cells) at birth.
Cons: “The mum’s uterus may not contract so well,” warns Dr Chong. Should this happen, it won’t expel all the placenta and some might remain loosely attached to the uterine wall. The retained placenta could cause heavy bleeding, also known as primary postpartum haemorrhage.
Who is it not suitable for? Those who are thinking of storing their baby’s umbilical cord blood, which is pretty popular these days. “If you do delayed cord clamping, there may be less blood for storage,” adds Dr Chong.
When you give birth vaginally, baby is exposed to lots of beneficial bacteria, known as microbiota, when travelling down the birth canal.
Trend #3: Vaginal seeding
What is it: Right after birth, a swab is taken from the mum’s vagina and wiped all over baby’s mouth, eyes and skin.
Pros: When you give birth vaginally, your baby is exposed to lots of beneficial bacteria, known as microbiota or microbiomes, when he travels down the birth canal ― which ae supposed to boost his immune system. As C-section babies are deprived of these “goodies”, that’s where vaginal seeding comes into play.
Cons: Babies are very vulnerable at birth and if the mums has a vaginal infection, it can cause great harm to their little ones. “For example, if group B strep is found in the vagina before delivery and the mum opts for a vaginal delivery, a high dose of intravenous ampicillin is given to the mum to suppress the bacterial in the vaginal canal, so that the baby will not get it on its way through the birth passage,” notes Dr Chong. “For such cases, vaginal seeding would be dangerous.”
Who is it not suitable for? Anyone who might have a vaginal infection, known or unknown.
Trend #4: Eating your own placenta
What is it: Literally eating the placenta that was attached to baby in utero, after delivery. There are plenty of ways to eat it, Dr Chong notes. “The Chinese cook it, others dry them and make them into pills for consumption. Pills can cost up to $300 to make.”
Pros: Advocates cite the placenta’s ability to boost milk production, fight postpartum depression, reduce post-delivery pain and increase energy in new mothers.
Cons: The placenta serves as a filter when it’s in your body, collecting debris to keep your baby safe. A lot of this waste is still in there after birth, so it’s not the cleanest thing to eat. Also during childbirth, you excrete a lot of bodily fluids, some women even defecate during the process, all of which can contaminate the placenta.
Who is it not suitable for? “Immune-compromised people,” notes Dr Chong.
The placenta serves as a filter when it’s in your body, collecting debris to keep your baby safe. A lot of this waste is still in there after birth, so it’s not the cleanest thing to eat.
Trend #5: Water birth
What is it? The process of labouring and delivering in a tub of warm water. Some women choose to labour in the water and deliver outside of it, while others prefer to enter the tub only towards the final stages of labour. You can also do a water birth at home.
Pros: The water mimics the environment in womb, although it may not be at the same temperature. “It’s more comfortable for the mum and she will be in less pain,” says Dr Chong.
Cons: You are unable to monitor the foetus and foetal heartbeat continuously during labour and delivery. So, you won’t know when baby is in distress. Also, baby’s first reaction after delivery is to open his mouth and cry. “During a water birth, the baby is expected to naturally float to the surface or picked up and brought to the surface,” Dr Chong explains. “However, if this is delayed, water can get into his lungs and cause asphyxiation and drowning. A water birth could also increase the risk of a lung infection.”
Who is it not suitable for? Babies with conditions that require close monitoring of the heartbeat with a CTG machine. “Also, it’s not advised if the mother has a medical condition such as severe high blood pressure,” adds Dr Chong. “I had a patient whose baby died during water birth.”
Trend #6: Home birth
The hospital, with help from a team of experienced doulas, midwives and obstetricians. She can give birth in a tub of water, on a pile of towels or even on her sofa.
Pros: This benefits the mum more than the baby ― as she’s in her own environment, she feels more comfortable and in control of the situation. There’s also more privacy during and after the birth, especially for mums who want to breastfeed immediately.
Cons: The house may not be as sterile as the hospital and can result in baby catching an infection, especially since he or she has low immunity at birth. “The baby can also suffocate as secretions and fluids cannot be as well sucked off from the nose and mouth the way they do in the hospital,” Dr Chong notes. “Baby may also be too cold and this could affect their breathing.”
Who is it not suitable for? Anyone who is afraid of the risks attached to not receiving timely medical attention using state-of-the-art equipment. “If resuscitation is needed for the baby, every minute counts as it affects the baby’s brain,” Dr Chong points out.
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