There is nothing quite like water for birth! I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? A nice warm bath is often what we turn to for soothing relaxation when we aren’t in labor, so it only stands to reason that it would do the same when we are in labor! Personally, I have used water in all three of my labors and actually delivered my last two babies in water. I swear by it, so let’s look at some of the perks of waterbirth for both you and baby.
6 Perks of Waterbirth
Less Intense Contractions
Put simply, when your belly is fully submerged under water a buoyancy effect is created, allowing you to get into new positions more easily and neutralizing the pressure between inside and outside, making your contractions less intense. This is especially helpful once your water has broken and that internal cushion is gone. Next to medicinal intervention, water is the number one pain reliever for birth.
General Relaxation and Pain Relief
As a good birthing class will teach you, relaxation is key to managing pain in labor. When you see women scrunching up their faces and squeezing their partner’s hands to the point of breaking in the movies you are seeing a very good example of exactly what NOT to do! There is something called the fear-tension-pain cycle: fear of the pain causes you to tense, which gives you more pain, which then makes you fear the pain more! It’s a runaway train that makes labor feel unbearable! However, if you are able to keep your body relaxed your contractions will be much more effective because you won’t be fighting them and the pain is in turn far more manageable. Submersion in a nice, warm, relaxing tub is obviously helpful in this process.
The cocoon-like space that a mama experiences in a birthing pool also allows her to feel safe and like she is retaining the power over her labor, keeping her protective instincts intact. It may sound silly and new-agey (the latter of which I am definitely not, the former is debatable), but it is typical of all mammals to seek out a safe, small and secluded space to birth their young, so it’s only natural that human mamas would do the same.
Generally, once a mom is in active labor, water helps speed the birthing process along. This is likely a result of the added relaxation that helps mom not fight the contractions, allowing her body to do what it needs to do.
Less Intervention and Pernieal Trauma
Episiotomies are pretty much unheard of with waterbirth as are many other interventions. Practically speaking, interventions are harder to administer to mamas who are laboring in water, thereby protecting them from things that are unnecessary. By the same token, labors of women in water often progress so well that interventions simply aren’t needed. Also, being in the water helps the tissues expand, there by diminishing the risk of tearing. Water labor is even found to reduce blood pressure and lessen your risk of having a c-section.
A Gentle Entry into the World
This one, again, is pretty logical. Your baby is coming from an aquatic world so it only makes sense that being born into warm water and welcomed straight into mamas arms is the least startling and jarring entry possible. Don’t worry, baby doesn’t take a breath until they hit the air (as long as they are brought up quickly and still attached to the umbilical cord).
Easy Clean Up!
This one is probably my husband’s favorite perk of waterbirth since he has to do all the clean up! We purchase a fitted cover for the tub we use, so the hubs just has to insert the pump into the water, place the end of the hose into the toilet and start pumping! When all the water is out he simply gathers up the cover, throws it away and does a quick wipe down of the inside of the tub before he deflates it. Voilá! Clean up, done!
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Well after all that, who wouldn’t want a waterbirth?! I just may have to have another one! (No, that’s not an announcement! Not yet, anyway!). If your interest has been sparked for waterbirth and you would like to know more, I recommend visiting Waterbirth.org and reading the book Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper.
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*I am not a medical professional- just a mom and doula sharing from my experiences and research.