Birth is one of life’s most miraculous experiences. It can also be fraught with challenges and potential complications.
For the last two decades, Dr Lai Fon-Min has been helping women to understand the complexities and their choices in childbirth – and supporting their personal preferences regarding their gynaecological and obstetrical care.
Dr Lai specialises in high-risk obstetrics and natural birth. He is one of a small but significant pool of doctors who supports and facilitates natural birthing options, including home and water birth. In fact, he started the waterbirth movement in private hospitals in Singapore in 2006.
“Increasingly, as women become aware of their choices, many prefer to not have too much intervention during pregnancy and delivery,” he shared. His role is to understand what his patients want and best manage the pregnancy and birth so that their goals can be achieved.
“Nothing is ever risk-free,” he noted, “There is always a risk-benefit ratio. However, seen early and with close monitoring, coupled with a good understanding between the mother and obstetrician, we can work towards a birth that what the mother prefers, without too much medical intervention.”
What is important, he added, is to highlight what is available, what is possible and all the information on about these options. To this end, Dr Lai offers individualised care based on what women want, instead of a pre-set plan.
Taking a more patient-centric approach and supporting natural birth means mothers can work with their body’s own natural ‘timetable’.
“If the baby is growing well and healthy and the mother is in good health, there is sometimes no good reason to induce or intervene,” he said. To do this, he ensures a comprehensive assessment plan is in place.
“This can make the difference in reassuring the mother that everything is going fine.” And, he elaborated, “If you manage the antenatal period well, a lot of things can be managed so that there is a favourable outcome for mother and child.”
Some of the benefits of this increased awareness about their birthing choices means that women can be a more active participant in their delivery and take more ownership of the process.
Natural birth has its challenges, but also confers long-term health benefits, Dr Lai said. Cesarean section (c-section), while safe and life-saving in certain urgent circumstances, does not carry the unique protection that vaginal delivery does.
“Babies born vaginally are much less likely to develop allergies, eczema, asthma compared to those delivered via c-section,” he shared.
There is a lot of research into how the microbiome that is imparted during a vaginal birth lowers the risk of diabetes, bowel cancer, pancreatic cancer, depression, autoimmune problems, Dr Lai noted. Mothers also benefit from vaginal birth as they heal and recover faster.
Ultimately, the choice of whether to opt for the predictability of a c-section or the natural process of a vaginal delivery is and must be up to the mother, emphasised Dr Lai.
“I try not to exclude what can be done so that the mother has total ownership of what can be done for her own delivery, depending what she feels is important to her. My role is to clarify all concerns so that they can make the best decisions for themselves.”
The information provided in this article is meant purely for general information purposes only and may not be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please seek the advice of your doctor or qualified healthcare provider. The views, information or opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the writer and the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect those of, and are not endorsed by, Camden Medical Centre.