Natural birth enthusiasts are all abuzz about the opening of a new hospital in Al-Ain that will offer birth in a specialized tub. Water births were first introduced in the 1960s and gained significant popularity by the 1990s. At first they were mainly used in the home birth setting, but they are now offered as a choice in many Western hospitals as well.
Dayle had a water birth at home in the US with her second child: “The water was warm and soothing. The warmth of the birth pool cut the pain of my contractions in half!”
Gertrude had a water birth in Germany with her first child and says, “The best thing was the warm, light feeling inside the water during the expulsion phase, water birth is great!”
Al-Ain Cromwell Women and Children Hospital’s birthing floor should be open next month and has three large birthing rooms, including one with a squatting stool and the first water birth pool in the region! This is exciting news for the women of Al-Ain and a ray of hope for other areas of the Middle East (including Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and others) where natural-birth advocates are clamoring for more supportive birthing facilities.
“I’m most excited about their implementation of a midwifery model of care in which women are listened to as individuals and pregnancy is seen as a normal life event,” said Tami Stroud, a professional birth companion. “I have great hope for them. So many women just want a normal, safe, low intervention, natural childbirth and I think Al-Ain Cromwell Women and Children Hospital can deliver that.”
The maternity unit at the new hospital is led by American Midwife, Sandi Blankenship, a water birth expert.
“In a good hospital, 50 to 60 percent of mothers should be delivered by a midwife,” Blankenship says. In her private midwifery practice in the States she attended over 700 water births. She explains: “It’s important to follow a set protocol to determine which patients are allowed to use the water tub for birth. There also must be standard procedures for handling any complications while birthing in the water.”
Elizabeth Bain, a former midwife who now serves as a labor and birth companion (doula) in Dubai, is particularly excited about the new birthing unit.
“The midwifery model of care that we have in the UK should be the standard for the Middle East,” she said. “This means birth should be viewed as a normal physiological event that happens in a woman’s life, rather than a medical emergency. In low-risk births, the woman, her baby, and her family should be at the center of care, followed by the midwife, and lastly by obstetricians only by invitation when a complication or medical problem arises. I have a vision for the Emirates and neighboring countries to provide midwifery maternity units like back home, where women are treated holistically and care is focused on her and her baby.”
She said she feels confident the new center in Al-Ain is the first step toward achieving that dream.
“Our maternity unit is completely backed by the surgical skills of resident obstetricians who are hired in consideration for their support of natural birth and the midwifery model of care. There are two anesthesiologists to assist in surgical procedures as well as ensuring women’s choice to birthing completely naturally or with pain relief.”
Besides Blankenship, water birth is well supported by Noreen Healy, a British midwife who worked in one of the largest water birth research hospitals in London.
“The idea to provide water births in the Emirates came about as there was a realization of the niche market for this type of birth, along with a shortage of beds in the area. Our hospital is a full service, family and visitor friendly facility. When it comes to birth, women want more. They want choice and a celebration of the event. The experience offered here is something special with a level of service resembling a five-star hotel.”
By AISHA AL HAJJAR