First-time mum Lim Qing Ru shares details of her unusual drug-free labour and birthing experience…

“I wanted a water birth after chancing upon a YouTube video six years ago. The lady in the video was almost half-asleep in the tub, with her eyes closed. It was pleasantly quiet, no shouting, no screaming, and that went on for a while before a baby emerged through the water! It was such a magical sight when the mum instinctively picked up her baby and put it to her chest.

I made up my mind then if I ever had a baby, I’d have a water birth. I even told my friends about my newfound wish and they thought I was mad!

Even though water births are quite common in Europe and America, I didn’t know anyone who had a successful water birth here in Singapore. Hence, I could only rely on books and classes to prepare myself.

I read up on natural birthing theories including hypnobirthing, the Bradley method, and Lamaze and Alexander birthing techniques. I also signed up for more than 30 hours of prenatal classes with Four Trimesters and NUH, which were extremely useful, and I engaged a doula (Deanna Kearns).

In the last three weeks leading up to my birth, I did birthing exercises and listened to birth affirmations every night before going to bed.

I made up my mind then if I ever had a baby, I’d have a water birth.”

I was fortunate to have an extremely smooth pregnancy. However, just one week before my due date, I was hit by a condition called prodromal labour.

Prodromal labour, or false labour, feels like actual labour contractions. But unlike a normal labour, which has a progressive labour pattern, the interval between contractions doesn’t always get shorter and the contractions don’t always get stronger.

In fact, nothing progresses in prodromal labour! The cervix does not dilate, neither does it thin. Instead, the lower part of the uterus contracts as strongly as the upper part, which prevents the cervix from dilating…so, it’s super-demoralising! Imagine, labouring for three days with no end in sight!

The contractions were irregular, sometimes lengthening, sometimes shortening. Its frequency ranged from every hour, to every three minutes. Their intensity also varied each time.

I was sleepless and in constant pain for three days and nights. I was tired and exhausted. Not knowing how long this would last, I got to a dark place very quickly.

I told my doula about these contractions and she advised me to wait at home till my contractions showed a regular pattern.

Based on what I’ve read online, some women report having prodromal labour for weeks! The prospect of that happening to me made me break down emotionally, twice. I cried like a baby, wallowed in self-pity and started seeing my ‘perfect birth’ fade away.

Imagine labouring for three days with no end in sight…Details, next!


I had contractions so intense that I wished the doctor would cut me up and deliver the baby right away. Yet, I knew I couldn’t go to the hospital because that would lead to a string of interventions. I didn’t want to be induced as that meant that my contractions would get harder and foil my plan for a natural birth.

I was a total wreck and my husband had to calm me down. After my last meltdown, I went straight to the hospital. When I got to the hospital, I was 5cm dilated. I got into the bathtub and it felt so good!

The heat from the water took the edge off the more painful contractions and they were more manageable. Since uterine contractions are muscular contractions, the heat provides relief. The buoyancy also eases muscular tension and helped me relax.

The heat from the water took the edge off the more painful contractions and they were more manageable.”

However, the pain relief wears off quickly once you get used to it. That’s when I got out of the tub and laboured elsewhere. When I knew a big contraction was coming up, I hopped back into the tub. I got in and out of the tub three times, before staying in it throughout the pushing phase.

With every contraction, I felt intense pressure deep in the side of my hips. If I was sitting or lying down, the pressure would make me jump up and get on all fours immediately.

Throughout the delivery, I laboured against the walls, on all fours, against my husband, in the tub, or on the birthing stool. I never got to rest sitting or lying down. This made me tired.

I didn’t take epidural or gas (Entonox) ― it isn’t possible to take pain relief if you want to labour in the tub. Epidural requires a needle in the spine, and that’s not logistically possible if the mother is in the water. Entonox is pumped out of a cylinder, and it isn’t possible for the entire setup to be placed near the tub either.

It took two hours or so for me to be dilated 10cm, and then another 30 minutes to push my baby out.

Holding my tiny and fragile Elon in my arms in the first moments of his life, together with my husband in the hot tub, was the most memorable part of the whole experience.

Birth is a miracle ― and natural birth is a gift, especially so when you’re surrounded by your loved ones.

I feel extremely blessed and fortunate to have gotten the birth I wanted.”

Lim Qing Ru, 31, lives in Singapore with her husband Garry Huang, 35, and son Elon, 3 months.

Photos: Lim Qing Ru

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