What is water birth?
Water birth is the process of giving birth in a tub of warm water. Some women choose to labor in the water and get out for delivery. Other women decide to stay in the water for the delivery as well. The theory behind water birth is that since the baby has already been in the amniotic fluid sac for nine months, birthing in a similar environment is gentler for the baby and less stressful for the mother.
What are the potential benefits of water birth?
Benefits for Mother:
- Warm water is soothing, comforting, relaxing.
- In the later stages of labor, the water has been shown to increase the woman’s energy.
- The effect of buoyancy lessens a mother’s body weight, allowing free movement and new positioning.
- Buoyancy promotes more efficient uterine contractions and improved blood circulation resulting in better oxygenation of the uterine muscles, less pain for the mother, and more oxygen for the baby.
- Immersion in water often helps lower high blood pressure caused by anxiety.
- The water seems to reduce stress-related hormones, allowing the mother’s body to produce endorphins which serve as pain-inhibitors.
- Water causes the perineum to become more elastic and relaxed, reducing the incidence and severity of tearing and the need for an episiotomy and stitches.
- As the laboring woman relaxes physically, she is able to relax mentally with greater ability to focus on the birth process.
- Since the water provides a greater sense of privacy, it can reduce inhibitions, anxiety, and fears.
Benefits for Baby:
- Provides an environment similar to the amniotic sac.
- Eases the stress of birth, thus increasing reassurance and sense of security.
Can my birth partner join me?
Yes. If your birth partner is comfortable and desires to be in the pool, they may join you. However, even if your birth partner doesn’t get into the pool, just having a special person close by to support you will be reassuring.
What are the best positions while I am in the water?
The warm water will most help you to relax if you can find a comfortable position, with the water covering you up to your shoulders.
You may find an inflatable pillow or waterproof pillow helpful for resting on. Floats may also be useful for supporting you. Your birth partner can pass you the things you need to make you comfortable.
You could try any or all of these positions, while you’re in the water:
- Squatting, holding onto the sides of the pool.
- Kneeling, leaning forwards onto the side of the pool, or with your arms round your partner’s neck. Putting a folded hospital towel in the base of the pool can be more comfortable on your knees .
- Resting on your side with your head on a pillow on the side of the pool.
- Floating on your back with your hands grasping the sides of the pool and your head supported on a pillow or using floats under your arms.
- Floating on your tummy with your head turned sideways, supported on a pillow.
- Sitting with your back against your birth partner, if they are in the pool with you.