Women have chosen to birth in water for thousands of years, in hot springs, rivers, bath houses, and in the sea. For our ancestors, birthing in water usually meant making a trek out into nature. This sounds lovely, to be sure, but it might be a less-than-ideal scenario in winter months, and making the trek back home afterwards seems like a real bummer.
Nowadays, women enjoy jetted jacuzzi tubs, soft, inflatable tubs, or even their own bathtub, and savor in the comfort of birthing in warm, clear water, right in their own home.
The benefits of water labor and water birth are numerous!
Mamas know that relaxation is the key to a successful natural birth experience, and warm water is where it’s at. The warmth relaxes muscles in a safe and effective way, and the buoyancy created by the water helps mamas feel lighter. This also allows for ease of movement and position changes.
2. Stretching of the Tissues
As a midwife, I love water births, because it allows our yonis to stretch so nicely. When we are fully relaxed, we open gently and easily. Most mothers birthing in water have little to no damage to their perineums.
3. Baby’s Transition
When a baby is born underwater, they are moving from clear, warm water to clear, warm water. Although babies are only under water for a few moments, that smooth transition seems to help them relax and integrate their experience much easier. Often, water birth babies are bright eyed, looking around, and taking it all in, pinking up nicely, yet not interested in crying. They are in a peaceful place, floating in their mama’s arms.
Oftentimes, couples considering water birth have questions concerning safety. Here are the most common.
1. Can the baby get water in his or her lungs?
Babies are, of course, floating in water, until the time of birth. They are born with a reflex that prevents them from taking in a breath of air, until their skin and umbilical cord are exposed to air. Under water, they are still breathing through their umbilical cord, like little scuba divers! Typically, a baby is under the water for just a few seconds. Once a she has been brought to the surface, she will take her first breath.
2. What is the temperature of the water?
Ideally, it is between 98 and 102 degrees. This allows for enough warmth to bring benefit to the mom, and to keep the baby warm, after the birth. Midwives and doulas can add warm or cool water, as necessary, to keep the perfect temperature. We often fan the mama, use a cool wet washcloth on her forehead and neck, and give her cold, refreshing drinks.
3. Am I supposed to wait for a certain point, before getting in the pool? I’ve heard it needs to be 5cm dilation.
Although there is no steadfast rule, the tub is usually good for slowing things down and giving a mama a bit of rest, in early labor, and providing great comfort as well as speeding things up, in active labor. Most home birth midwives do not have any rules, specific to dilation and use of the tubs.
4. What if I need to go to the bathroom?
If a mom needs to pee, in labor, we will help her out and escort her to the bathroom… if that’s what she wants to do. Urine is sterile. Many a mom has chosen to just stay in the tub, especially if pushing phase is coming on. Bringing gravity back in the picture is not always a welcomed thought, at that time!
5. Okay, but what if I need to do the other one… You know?
It is really common for moms to feel like the baby is actually coming out of their bottom. So, the urge to push can feel like the need to poop. This is true of “land” births and water births. Again, we will be happy to help a mama get out and go to the restroom, if need be. If she needs to get back into the water quickly, we are totally there for her.
6. So, what if I don’t realize I need to do the other one, and I do the other one, while I’m pushing in the tub?
We’ve got this. The midwife or doula will use a debris net and our built-in ninja skills to get rid of any evidence before you or your partner even knows it! When this happens during pushing phase, it is always a very small amount, and really easy to just whisk away. This is also true of “land” births and water births.
7. Will I birth the placenta in the tub?
That is totally up to each mom. Oftentimes, it feels right to relax in the tub for a while after the birth and breastfeed. The placenta is usually born within an hour after the birth, and midwives can assist with this anytime, anywhere.
8. Will I ever be asked to get out of the tub?
It’s possible. There may be times when a closer assessment of the tissues, bleeding, etc. may necessitate exiting the birth pool.
9. Where do I get a tub?
You can purchase a tub from several online sources, including www.yourwaterbirth.com, or you can rent tubs from midwives, doulas, and childbirth educators in your area. In my practice, I offer free use of a professional grade birth tub. In the Phoenix area, tubs are usually very reasonable to rent, typically running around $200 for blow-up tubs http://injoyablebirth.com/services/about-la-bassine/ and $350 for jacuzzi-type tubshttp://babydeliverease.com/.
Using water for your labor and birth is only natural, so go with the flow!