If there is magic on earth, it is in water. The life-giving, natural solvent brings with it healing properties that have been celebrated in alternative medicine for years. Water therapy trickles back to the days of yore in China, Japan and Rome, and also finds its roots in ancient Indian living. In India, naturopathy has long sung hydrotherapy’s praises and knit in its benefits. Cut to the savage urban lifestyle of today, where aqua treatments and water birthing techniques have gained a renewed dimension.
There are niggling aches and pains, and debilitating back spasms that impede movement and productivity. Then there are the escalating numbers on the weighing scale that make exercise routines cruel. In hydrotherapies, the buoyancy aspect of water lifts those kilos to address throbbing joints. Explains Dr Brinda Merchant, lead physiotherapist for paediatrics and neurology at AquaCentric Therapy Pvt. Ltd. Mumbai, “The viscosity of water helps in muscle strengthening. Water as a viscous medium provides up to 600-700 times more resistance than air. In water therapy, the negative effects
of gravity are negated and the strengthening of weak muscles takes place effectively. This is beneficial for those who are obese as it removes excessive pressure off their joints.”
The comforting water climes bring in safety in physical exercise. The ease of movement in water makes it simpler for those challenged with neurological concerns to flex, balance, and walk.
“Slow, rhythmic, mindful movement facilitates relaxation, better mobility and promotes muscle strengthening when aqua therapy ideally takes place in a temperature-controlled pool. A temperature of 32-33° C is considered to be therapeutic for a session that usually lasts 30-45 minutes. All this depends on individual requirements. A cooler water temperature may be preferred for pregnant women, those with multiple sclerosis, and athletes in the postseason recovery phase,” shares Dr Merchant.
Aqua therapy is safe for all age groups. Swimming is not a prerequisite as therapy pools require an immersion up to the chest or neck only. Stay hydrated during and after the session.
Water birthing has picked up momentum on the home turf, more so after celebrities abroad popularising it over the past few years. It comes in as a boon for low-risk pregnancies. Says Dr Veena Aurangabadwala, gynaecologist, Zen Multispeciality Hospital, Chembur, Mumbai. “In this natural birthing technique the mother tends to spend the final stages of labour in a birthing pool or a tub of warm water that allows a relaxing, comfortable, and less complex delivery process.
The slow transition of the baby from the amniotic fluid environment in the mother’s womb, to the water environment makes for ease of movement. Efficient uterine contractions enhance blood circulation, bettering oxygenation of the uterine muscles. This means less pain for the mother and more oxygen for the baby.”
Why is water birthing more advantageous? It is because warm water functions as a pain-reliever, increasing the flow of oxytocin, lowering anxiety and even paranoia. “Endomorphins released in the body at the time lessen the pain. Staying in water can keep blood pressure in control, while giving support to the perineal stretch. This reduces risk of injury while the baby is born,” says Aurangabadwala.
Before you take a call
There are exceptions to water birthing. Situations such as high blood pressure, diabetes, a previous C-section, preterm delivery and underweight foetus are aspects that work against a water birth option.
The second stage of labour, when the full dilatation of the cervix occurs, a birthing pool should not be used. Foetal monitoring such as tracing the heartbeat, recording contractions etc cannot be performed in water birthing.
The risk of a urinary tract infection due to a possible waterborne infection is possible despite all the care and precautions you may take. It should also be kept in mind that this could be a laborious process as the water of the birthing pool will need to be changed frequently to keep the right temperature and hygiene.
“In water therapy, the negative effects of gravity are negated and the strengthening of weak muscles takes place effectively. This is beneficial for those who are obese as it removes excessive pressure off their joints.”
Dr Brinda Merchant lead physiotherapist for paediatrics and neurology at AquaCentric Therapy Pvt. Ltd. Mumbai
Examine options in water birthing and aqua therapies as they bring in a host of healing benefits