The Facts About Water Birth?
Using water in pregnancy and labor is nothing new – pregnant women have used it for centuries – whether it be in private baths or in nature such as rivers, streams and the sea.
But it wasn’t until the 1960′s when the Russians started using purpose built pools. The french followed suit in the 1970′s and now they are popular worldwide for women looking to experience a more natural childbirth.
There are many benefits of using water during:
- Relax during your last weeks of pregnancy
- Water is very comfortable for pregnancy women as it’s weight bearing meaning mothers who feel very heavy feel lighter in the water – making it easier to move around in different birthing positions.
- Movement in the water can assist in the rotation of the and descent of the baby’s head.
- Warm water is relaxing especially for the woman’s uterus and vagina. You are able to contract and stretch more easily.
- Evidence shows being in warm water can lower the mother’s blood pressure during labor.
- Water is very calming and peaceful.
- The perineal skin becomes softer and suppler, reducing the chance of an episiotomy.
What Are The Benefits Of Water Birth For Your Baby?
For the past 40 weeks or so your baby has been floating and growing inside it’s own little “water world” inside your womb, that’s why many believe birthing into the water is more of a gently transition for your baby. It’s believed to be less distressing than what many medicalised birthed babies endure – being pulled, sucked or cut out and hit with bright lights and laid on a cold weighing machine within your first 5 minutes of being born
Videos and experience shows babies born underwater are very calm and many don’t cry because they feel very secure and comfortable.
Babies born into water have been known to recover better from birth, which may be due to the fact that labour was less traumatic. There is more blood flow to the baby due to better circulation of the mother and the baby isn’t stimulated to induce breathing, which again results in less crying after birth and a calmer, more alert state.
Bacteria is dissipated in the water, reducing the risk of infection to the baby and often cord cutting after birth is delayed until it stops pulsating, allowing a continuous oxygen flow to the baby.
A birthing pool can be a lovely place to initiate and establish breastfeeding. Babies tend to be calmer when they have been born into the water and mothers, often being naked, bring their babies to their bosom instinctively. This skin-to-skin contact releases oxcytocin (the love hormone), which helps with bonding and also helps the third stage to begin (the delivery of the placenta).
Babies are born with instincts and reflexes such as rooting, head bobbing etc and may try to find the breast during these early moments, some babies may be a bit too sleepy. Keeping baby warm by making sure the water stays warm (around 37deg) and by continually splashing water on her body will also keep her calm and holding her neck and spine firmly against you can help her to latch on. Breastfeeding will contract the uterus and thus help the placenta to be delivered. Your midwife may ask you to leave the pool to do this.
Can my baby breathe under water?
Often people are worried or scared of water birth because they think the baby may inhale water into it’s lungs – so the best way to explain it is this ….
The baby came from your womb which is a watery environment, so by being born into the water, the baby essentially transfers into a similar environment. The baby won’t breathe in any water because it’s instinct to breathe air is only activated when they come into contact with air. Once the cool air touches the baby’s skin and umbilical cord, the physiological system is signaled and the baby will then begin using his or her lungs. (There are a few more scientific reasons, but that’s basically the gist of it).
WOW! Isn’t the human body amazing!
Water Birth – Birthing Positions:
A birthing pool allows you freedom of movement, which you will probably do instinctively during labour.
Here’s a few you may like to use: (These are from the book “The New Pregnancy & Childbirth Choice & Challenges” Sheila Kitzinger
Kneel forwards, grasping the rim of the pool with your arms extended. Slide to and fro, lifting your head and bending your arms as you pull forwards and extending your arms as you slide backwards.
Squatting and Forwards Slide
Squat in the water with your arms and shoulders supported by the rim of the pool, feet well apart so that your pelvis is at it’s widest. Slide down with your legs extended, and back up to a squatting position again.
At the height of the contraction it may feel good to turn over on your front and drop your head into the water and blow out.
Lift your head as you pull forwards and, slide back with your arms extended.
Squatting and Backwards Slide
Squat in the centre of the pool, knees wide apart, arms extended and holding the rim of the pool. Drop your body forwards and extend your legs behind you. Grasp your partner at waist level, while he supports your upper arms.
Forwards and Backwards Slide on Front
Kneel in the water with your arms supported by the rim of the pool. Keep your knees well apart so that your pelvis is at its widest. Then slide down in the water with your legs extended. Push with your feet against the side of the pool to get back up to a kneeling position.
Forward and Backwards Slide on Back
With arms spread wide and supported by the pool rim, sit with your legs across the width of the pool so that your feet are resting on the opposite side.
Slide forwards and backwards, using your feet against the side of the pool to propel you. Padding behind your neck may make you more comfortable.
Kneel leaning forwards, knees wide apart, with the rim of the pool under your arms. In this position the cervix is tilted forwards, which is helpful during the second stage of labour.
Head Cradled Float
Lie back in the water with your head cradled in your partner’s hands. He should use a light touch, so that you can still move your head quite freely when you wish.
One position a woman may like to adopt as she pushes the baby down is a supported squat, her upper back against the side of the pool and her partner’s arms under her shoulders. It is important that he does not press on the nerves under her arms and that he holds her securely without gripping her.
Water Birth FAQ
How long is the baby underwater?
A water birth baby is usually brought up out of the water within the first 10 seconds of birth. There are some birthing videos that show mothers leaving the baby in the water for a bit longer, but there is no physiological reason to leave the baby under the water for any length of time.
Your placenta is still supporting the baby with oxygen during this time, but there’s nothing to indicate when the placenta will cease this. Safe practice is to lift the baby out of the water, without hurrying, and gently place into mama’s arms.
What is the water temperature?
Water temperature should be comfortable for the mother, but the ideal temp is between 95-100 degree Fahrenheit or 35-37 degrees Celsius. Anything higher than this can raise the mother’s core body temperature and increase the baby’s heart rate.
Water birthing mothers need to drinks plenty of fluid and have cold washcloths on hand to cool the mama’s neck, body and/or face. A cool facial mist from a spray bottle is a welcome relief for some mothers as well.
When should I get in the water for the water birth?
Whenever you want! A note of caution – if you enter the pool/bath in the early stages of labor before contractions are strong, regular and close together the water may relax you enough to slow or stop labor altogether. This is why sometimes water time is only for when labor is established and the cervix is dilated to at least 5 centimeters.
However, this is not a RULE! You really need to assess your own situation. Some women hop in the water for an hour or so to trial how their body reacts to it. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how dilated you are – you can go from 1cm to fully dilated within 1-2 hours by relaxing in the water.
Why is water childbirth not available in more hospitals?
Some hospitals have facilities and embrace utilising water as a form of pain management, but for most it’s not normal practice and some are stuck in the are still locked into believing the medical technological model of childbirth. They find it harder to grasp the efficacy and safety of waterbirth.
After speaking with hospital staff they explain the situation like this:
Some women “think” they want this “amazing calm waterbirth” but often they haven’t done a proper water childbirth education class and learnt what is required for a waterbirth. So when baths/pools are all prepared they don’t want to do it anymore and asking for an epidural.
Also, many hospital staff are not trained in water birth and haven’t attended many water births, so they are out of their comfort zone professionally.
How much does a water birth cost?
If you’re at a hospital with a bath or birthing pool then it depends if you are covered under private health insurance or not. I water birthed my first baby in a big spa bath at my local hospital who encouraged natural birthing. It was all under the public health system, so it didn’t cost me anything.
If you rent a portable pool for either home, birth centre birth or hospital birth, it usually costs about $350-$400. That includes rental, shipping both ways plus any extras. Some insurance companies do reimburse for the expense of the pool rental
Related Water Birth Topics
- Water Birth Videos
- Water Birth Stories
- WaterBirth Videos – All Your Questions About WaterBirth Answered
- Other Natural Childbirth Options