A baby will spend nearly 10 months of it's early life submerged in amniotic fluid. During this time they feel comfort, warmth and peace. Waterbirth is felt by Midwives, Doctors, Doulas and Mom's, to be the gentlest of gentle births. Now more than ever, mothers are choosing waterbirth as an alternative way to labour and birth.
During the birth journey, there is nothing like warm, luxurious water to cradle you and give you complete freedom to move during the greatest achievement of your life - the birth of your sweet child, this is the feeling of pure bliss.
There are many benefits to labouring in water, for those wanting statistics, I suggest reading Evidenced Based Water Birth, read it in it's entirety so that you can get a true sense of whether it's right for you and your baby.
14 Known benefits of water labour and waterbirth:
• Facilitates mobility and enables mother to assume any position which is comfortable for labour and birth
• Speeds up labour
• Reduces blood pressure
• Gives mother more feelings of control
• Provides significant pain relief
• Promotes relaxation
• Conserves energy
• Reduces the need for interventions and drugs
• Gives mother a private protected space
• Reduces perineal trauma and eliminates episiotomies
• Reduces cesarean section rates
• Is highly rated by mothers - typically stating they would consider giving birth in water again
• Is highly rated by experienced providers
• Encourages an easier birth for mother and a gentler welcome for baby
By placing a pool of water in a birth room, it changes the atmosphere immediately. Voices are softer, mother remains calmer and everyone becomes less stressed.
The effect of buoyancy that deep water immersion creates allows spontaneous movement of the mother. No one has to help the mother get into a new position. She moves as her body and the position of the baby dictate. Movement helps open the pelvis, allowing the baby to descend.
When a woman in labour relaxes in a warm deep pool, free from gravity’s pull on her body, with sensory stimulation reduced, her body is less likely to secrete stress-related hormones. This allows her body to produce the pain inhibitors-endorphins that complement labour. Noradrenaline and catecholamines, the hormones that are released during stress, actually raise the blood pressure and can inhibit or slow labour. When a labouring woman is able to relax physically, she is able to relax mentally as well. Many women, doulas, midwives, and doctors acknowledge the analgesic effect of water. Thousands of these mothers state they would never be able to consider labouring without water again.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What prevents baby from breathing under water?
There are four main factors that prevent the baby from inhaling water at the time of birth:
1. Prostaglandin E2 levels from the placenta which cause a slowing down or stopping of the fetal breathing movements. When the baby is born and the Prostaglandin level is still high, the baby's muscles for breathing simply don't work, thus engaging the first inhibitory response.
2. All babies are born experiencing mild hypoxia or lack of oxygen. Hypoxia causes apnea and swallowing, not breathing or gasping.
3. Fetal lungs are already filled with fluid. That fluid is there to protect the lungs, and keep the spaces open that will eventually exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen. It is very difficult, if not improbable, for fluids from the birth tub to pass into those spaces that are already filled with fluid. One physiologist states that "the viscosity of the fluid naturally occurring in the lungs is so thick that it would be nearly impossible for any other fluids to enter."
4. The last important inhibitory factor is the Dive Reflex and revolves around the larynx. The larynx is covered all over with chemoreceptors or taste buds. The larynx has five times as many as taste buds as the whole surface of the tongue. So, when a solution hits the back of the throat, passing the larynx, the taste buds interprets what substance it is and the glottis automatically closes and the solution is then swallowed, not inhaled.
For more information, please read Barbara Harper’s Waterbirth Basics .
What is the temperature of the water?
Water should be monitored at a temperature that is comfortable for the mother, usually between 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit (32-38 degrees Celsius). Water temperature should not exceed 101 degrees Fahrenheit as it could lead to an increase in the mother's body temperature which could cause the baby's heart rate to increase. It is a good idea to have plenty of water to drink and cold cloths for the mother's face and neck. A cool facial mist from a spray bottle is a welcome relief for some mothers as well.
How much does a waterbirth cost?
Sometimes Midwives and Doulas will charge a fee for the use of a portable birth pool. You can also purchase your own birth pool through many different sources. I suggest Waterbirth Solutions.com. The cost for a complete birth pool kit is now under $250.
If you have extended medical, some insurance companies do reimburse for the expense of the pool rental. That is something you would need to look into yourself.
Can I have a water birth at my local hospital?
Unfortunately the hospital I attend (Victoria General Hospital) does not host waterbirths of any kind. However, they will let you labour in the shower with support from your Midwife or Doctor.
How long is baby in the water after the birth?
Here in Canada, Midwives, usually bring the baby out of the water within the first few seconds after birth. There is no physiological reason to leave the baby under the water for any length of time. There are several water birth videos that depict leaving the baby under the water for several moments after birth and the babies are just fine.
Physiologically, the placenta is supporting the baby with oxygen during this time though it can never be predicted when the placenta will begin to separate causing the flow of oxygen to baby to stop. The umbilical cord pulsating is not a guarantee that the baby is receiving enough oxygen. The safe approach is to remove the baby, without hurrying, and gently place him upright onto the mother's chest.
When should I get into the water?
A woman should be encouraged to use the labour pool whenever she wants. However, if a mother chooses to get into the water in early labour, before her contractions/surges are strong and close together, the water may relax her enough to slow or stop labour altogether. That is why some Midwives limit the use of the pool until labour patterns are established and the cervix is dilated to at least 5 centimeters. There is some physiological data that supports this rule, but each and every situation must be evaluated on its own.
Some mothers find a bath in early labour useful for its calming effect and to determine if labour has actually started. If contractions are strong and regular, no matter how dilated the cervix is, a bath might be in order to help the mother to relax enough to facilitate dilation.
Therefore, it has been suggested that the bath be used in a "trial of water" for at least one hour and allow the mother to judge its effectiveness. Midwives report that some women can go from 1 cm to complete dilation within the first hour or two of immersion. The first hour of relaxation in the pool is usually the best and can often help a woman achieve complete dilation quickly.
If you have any questions about Waterbirth or my Birth or Postpartum Doula services please email me anytime.
Below is a raw video of a beautiful home waterbirth to give you an idea of what it's like. This mom was in control of her body and her birth, this is what a natural waterbirth can look like.