Will babies born in water drown?

A: If the baby is healthy, it is safe to be born in water. A baby will not start breathing until its face surfaces above the water, therefore it will not drown. The umbilical cord which is attached to the baby will provide oxygen to the baby from the placenta which is attached to the mother until the birth of the baby is complete.

How does the baby fit through the vagina and will it ever be normal again?

A: Every woman experiences her labour and birth differently. Every woman's birth story is different. Contractions help squeeze the baby down through the pelvis (the birth canal) and helps the cervix open up to 10cm. This is what is called the first stage of labour and can take an average of approximately 12-18 hours or sometimes less when it is not the woman's first baby, but remember every woman is different! Once the cervix is fully open (dilated) the baby can travel down from the uterus into the vaginal passage. It may take anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours to push a baby out once the cervix is 10cm dilated. The tissues at the outlet of the vagina are designed in a way in which they overlap each other. So in the event of childbirth, if the woman is able to take her time, the vagina is usually able to stretch and gently open to allow the baby to pass through, there is less likely to be trauma to the region. Some women may tear in the skin at the base of her vagina called the 'perineum', but this is rectified after birth with either good hygiene or if necessary, a local anaesthetic and a few stitches. The area has an abundant blood supply and heals quickly returning close to the original shape from pre-pregnancy.

My sister wants a homebirth. Is this dangerous?

A: The decision about how and where to give birth to a baby is always a very personal one.

A century ago, nearly all babies were born at home, usually with a midwife attending the birth. But now, most babies in first world countries are born in hospitals. A small but growing number of parents choose to have their baby at home or in the more homely setting of a midwife-operated birth centre within a hospital.

The best environment for a woman to give birth is a place in which she feels safe and comfortable – and that will differ for every couple. Homebirth in Australia is attended by usually 2 midwives and a comprehensive care plan is undertaken during the pregnancy to ensure all involved feel safe and supported and ready for any unexpected events unfolding during pregnancy/birth or even after the birth.

A woman also needs to decide who will provide medical care throughout their pregnancy (eg. a midwife, doctor or obstetrician) and who will be with them for the birth (including birth attendants such as doulas or family members).

Before deciding what is right for them it's important they find out more about the various options available as not all are available throughout Australia.

How does a woman know when to go to the hospital?

A: Towards the end of pregnancy a woman may have many contractions that make her think she is in labour.

The woman is encouraged to contact her caregiver/hospital for a number of different reasons eg. waters break, bleeding, regular contractions.

If after contacting them the woman is not given a specific time to go into the hospital then a good guide is when contractions are 4 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, for at least one 1 hour.

The caregiver/hospital may tell her to stay home a bit longer usually because of the comforts of her own home.

Why do some women have cesareans?

A: Some reasons for cesareans are:

  • Pregnant with more than two babies
  • Prolapsed cord (cord comes out the vagina before the baby)
  • Risk of a previous scar rupturing (rare)
  • A very large baby
  • A baby with and extremely large head
  • Baby in a horizontal position and can't be turned
  • The baby's heart rate drops significantly with birth not imminent
  • Mother has genital herpes

Having a caesarean for a valid medical reason should not make a woman feel she is a failure. However, a caesarean is major surgery with risks to both mum and baby. In some cases it can save the life of the mother and/or the baby.

Do I have to get all my clothes off when I have a baby?

A: No is the short answer, it is personal preference. In saying that though many women find they get really hot in labour, clothes become too restrictive and they are in and out of the shower/bath. Your birthing environment should be treated like your bedroom, with those entering requesting permission and behaving accordingly. Privacy is very important for a woman to feel safe and allow labour to unfold naturally. You will need to ensure you have no undies on when the baby is being born!!!

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