You know that warm, bubble bath you prepare for yourself when the day’s been rough and the kids are acting up? You know how you just sink into that glistening, sudsy tub and let you cares run away like gazelles on a pasture? You know how your mind is just whisked away, into some far away land where the air is warm and the drinks are cool? Well, a water birth is kind of like that, but without all the suds and gazelles and cool drinks. It’s contractions and waiting and contractions and waiting… it’s pretty much labor in a tub full of warm water! But oh the benefits…
Waterbirth International states that, “support in water is one of the most beneficial things that can be offered to a woman in labor.” Apparently the warm water calms and relaxes women during this stage of labor. And who wouldn’t want to be calmed and relaxed at this stage of labor??? There are plenty more benefits too:
- Facilitates Mobility – The woman can easily adjust to any position that suits her with minimal or no help. She is in control of her birthing experience.
- Speeds up labor – NEED I SAY MORE!!!
- Reduces blood pressure – A relaxed mom is a healthy mom.
- Provides significant pain relief – NEED I SAY MORE!!!!
- Reduces the need for drugs or intervention
- Encourages an easier birth for mom
Any woman considering a water birth is encouraged to seriously do her homework. Water birthing is major business and it is imperative that all parties involved (mom, dad, doula, midwife, etc.) are fully knowledgeable about what they’re about to get into. Here are some steps to preparing for a water birth:
- Examine your motivations and expectations – will this be a comfortable setting and situation for you? Are you comfortable with being in a tub full of water partially clothed? Are you modest, not-so-modest, an exhibitionist????? Whatever the case, make sure you have visited your feelings thoroughly.
- The Tub – you have one of two options: rent a tub ($350-$400) or use your own (which might not be as adequate as the birthing folks would like, but then again, they’re not shelling out $400 to rent you a tub either! The tub should be big enough to sit in comfortably and deep enough for the water to come up to armpit level. Make sure the tub has been cleaned with any eco-friendly cleaner and rinsed thoroughly. The doula or midwife assisting will provide you with any other specifics.
- The Water – the water should be pure enough to drink (not that you’ll be drinking it!). Water temperature should be between 95-101 degrees F. Adjust the temperature to what feels best for you.
- The Birthing Room – No you’re not doing this in your bathroom! The room should be big enough to facilitate the midwife and her equipment as well as a host of visitors who have come to witness your little miracle. JK. But really you need to have space to do this thing, confinement is not an option.
- Edibles – You can drink (water, that is) all you want. You may also eat light, easily digestible foods.
- Get in the tub – only when your contractions are coming in significant intervals. Adjust you position to whatever suits you. Just be comfortable.
The birthing process with water births, like any other type of birth, varies. Labor can stall or progress at lightning speed. If you find that your labor isn’t progressing, get into the tub, or conversely, if you’re in the tub and labor isn’t progressing, get out of the tub. The change in environment usually jump starts labor.
Once the baby is born, he can be removed from the water. Many mothers like to reach down and pick their baby up immediately, while others like to let the baby linger a little longer (no more than 30 seconds). The baby will begin to breathe as soon as his face emerges from the water, until then, the umbilical cord does the ‘breathing’. The placenta can also be delivered in the water, however this must be discussed ahead of time with your birthing assistant.
Some rightfully cautious persons have suggested that there could be risks involved with water births, however over the 30 years, as water births have risen in popularity, no risks have been determined. Water birthing is as safe as or more safe than the traditional methods. A growing number of obstetricians, as well as midwives and birthing centers believe that water birthing reduces stress during labor and delivery which, in turn, reduces fetal complications. Water birth is definitely a viable option worth considering.