If you’re leaning towards natural childbirth, you may want to consider a water birth as well.
In this article:
- What Is a Water Birth?
- Where Can You Have a Water Birth?
- Who Can Assist in Water Births?
- Why Do Women Choose to Have Water Births?
- When Is It Not Ideal?
- What Are the Risks?
- How Do You Prepare for a Water Birth?
Is Water Birth for You?
What Is a Water Birth?
A water birth is when a woman goes through labor, delivers, or does both in a birth pool or birthing tub filled with warm water.
Labor is when women experience contractions that help dilate their cervix, while delivery is when women start to push their babies out of the birth canal.
More commonly, women will choose to have labor in the birth pool but emerge in time for the delivery of the baby. Yet, there are some women who do both in the birth pool.
Where Can You Have a Water Birth?
Water births are becoming more popular these days. Water births may be done in:
- birthing centers
- their own homes
If you want to have water birth, you can talk to your doctor about it. Some hospitals may even have the equipment and facilities for it.
If your hospital doesn’t offer it as a birthing option, you can try looking into birthing centers. A birthing center is a healthcare facility that’s more comfortable and homelike.
You can also have one at home with the help of a midwife. Birthing pool rentals are available online.
Who Can Assist in Water Births?
It’s best to first ask your obstetrician (OB/GYN) if they can perform water births. If not, they may be able to recommend other medical professionals who can.
More commonly, midwives are more experienced in assisting with water births. A midwife is a trained professional who helps women during their pregnancy, labor, delivery, and even during the postpartum period.
A nurse-midwife can also provide assistance. A nurse-midwife is a certified midwife who is also a practicing registered nurse.
Why Do Women Choose to Have Water Births?
Here are some of the benefits of water birth:
- Warm water may have a relaxing and soothing effect on the laboring mom
- May help ease labor pains
- May help reduce blood pressure
- Water allows the expectant mom to find more comfortable positions during labor because they can move more easily and freely
- May help reduce the need for pain medication
- May help speed up labor
- Birthing tubs may provide a sense of privacy for the laboring mom
- May ease the baby’s transition into the world because the water is similar to the amniotic sac
The relaxing effect the warm water can have on expectant moms may lead to higher levels of oxytocin and endorphins. Oxytocin is a hormone that helps the uterus contract, while endorphins are hormones that help relieve pain.
Unsurprisingly, studies show women who opt for water births used significantly less pain medication. These same women also reported experiencing less pain during their labor and delivery.
When Is It Not Ideal?
Water births are generally safe for women who didn’t have a high-risk pregnancy and who are delivering single, full-term babies (at least 37 weeks of gestation).
Unfortunately, it may not be ideal for women who:
- have gone into pre-term labor
- are 16 years old or younger
- are 36 years old or older
- have a history of preeclampsia
- have a history of diabetes
- are having multiple babies (twins, triplets, or more)
- have a fever
- need constant monitoring throughout labor and delivery due to certain medical conditions
- have an infection such as herpes
- have excessive vaginal bleeding
What Is Preeclampsia? This is a complication of pregnancy where the pregnant woman suffers high blood pressure. At the same time, one of her organs may be damaged in the process.
Apart from the mom’s condition, the baby’s condition should also be taken into consideration. Water births may not be ideal if the baby:
- is premature
- is in a breech position (when the baby’s butt or feet are delivered first)
- has passed meconium (newborn stool/faecal matter) during labor
- is very large
If you would like to have a water birth, it’s important to have your doctor’s clearance to make sure it’s a safe option for you and your baby.
What Are the Risks?
Midwives and most doctors agree that it’s safe for women to go through labor in the water. In fact, women are encouraged to take baths during early labor to help them relax.
Most of the risks associated with water births have to do with delivering in the water. Here are some of the risks:
- Possibility of dehydration if the water in the birthing tub is too hot
- Increased chance of the perineum (the skin between the vagina and anus) tearing
- Baby or mom may get an infection
- Umbilical cord may break before the baby emerges from the water, depriving the baby of oxygen or blood flow
- Baby may breathe in the water, especially if they are distressed in the birth canal
- Baby may have a seizure or may have a hard time breathing, and this may be difficult to manage in the water
- Baby’s initial body temperature might be too cold or too warm and may be more difficult to regulate in the water
It’s important to note that these risks are relatively rare, but they may lead to potentially dangerous outcomes for the mom and baby.
How Do You Prepare for a Water Birth?
If you are a candidate for water birth and have spoken to your doctor about it, here are some steps you can take to prepare for it:
- Decide on where you can have a water birth (the hospital, a birthing center, or at home)
- Make arrangements for a healthcare professional to assist you (a doctor, midwife, or nurse-midwife)
- Check if the birthing tub is clean and properly maintained
- Make sure the tub is cleaned using non-toxic cleaners
- Inquire about infection control measures
- Consult the healthcare provider about how you and your baby will be monitored throughout labor
- If you don’t intend on delivering in the tub, create an exit strategy with your healthcare provider
- Make sure the water temperature is regulated and doesn’t go beyond 97 degrees Fahrenheit
- Pack an insulated water bottle to keep hydrated throughout labor
Watch Joseline Hernandez share her experience on all natural water birth in this video from The Real Daytime:
If you plan and prepare for a water birth, it can be a safe and wonderful childbirth option for you and your baby. Reach out to your doctor or a midwife if this is a birthing option you would like to explore.
Are you considering a water birth? Let us know in the comments section.