The Egyptian town of Dahab is a popular Middle East tourist spot for sightseers, with the Red Sea it borders being a favorite diving spot. Now it has another draw: an offshore birth site for expectant mothers.
The latest instance of Dahab heralding new arrivals took place in mid-March, when an unidentified pregnant woman strode into the sea with her husband and a Russian doctor whose specialty is aquatic births. By the time the delivery was done, the group of three became four once they made their way ashore.
Thanks to some unobstructed sightlines from a balcony, a tourist took pictures of the birth and shared them on social media where they went viral. Most were amazed at how easy the process was, and admired the beauty of seeing a newborn that made its way into the world in such an unusual way.
But according to the American Pregnancy Association, water births are more common than what most might think. The organization says women opting for the aquatic route believe that since the baby has already been floating in amniotic liquid inside the womb for nine months, making its way through the birth canal into an equally watery environment is less stressful for both mother and child. Obstetricians who favor water births said the lack of stress in turn eliminates a large number of complications during birth.
Proponents of the method also point out that the soothing properties of water tend to make the mother more relaxed during labor, while its buoyancy also helps with positioning to ensure a less painful birth. Immersion also tends to lower anxiety and high blood pressure, while it helps the mother produce endorphins to further reduce pain.
While medical professionals admit there has been very little water birth research, although the process has slowly increased in popularity in the last 30 years, some point out the aquatic method poses its own set of risks. A mother could experience an embolism, in which arteries are prone to blockage if salt water enters her bloodstream. A newborn could theoretically drown if complications such as twisted umbilical cord triggers the infant to gasp for air while still immersed.
That said, most obstetricians say that water birthing is safe, but should still only be performed with a trained healthcare professional present.