Guest Author - Maryn Leister
Birthing in Water
Advantages for mom are:
-relaxation!! Relaxation promotes many good physiological changes in the body. When you are relaxed, your breathing slows and your baby gets more oxygen. Your blood pressure goes down, and your uterus is able to work most efficiently because endorphins (and not adrenaline) are easily produced.
-water defies gravity. Your weight is supported, and you can float and change position much easier than you could on land. Along the same lines, your tissues and bottom can relax and have the best chance of stretching for your baby to be born. Studies have shown that there is a higher rate of intact perineums when labouring in water (Garland and Jones, 2000).
-you create own space. Labour can be overwhelming and overstimulating and it feels safe but freeing to many women to have their own space. Your partner can still support you, but you can control everyone's access to you.
Benefits to baby are:
-gentle transition to life. Baby is born into a similar intrauterine environment and so his body will transition more slowly. Blood pressure doesn't rise as fast and baby's body has a chance to adapt at it's own pace. It is noted that babies born in water take a few more moments to establish respirations (Anderson 2004).
-any complications (like cord around the neck, very common) are less stressful because the baby also is supported by the water and not being pulled downward by gravity.
Water is a safe and effective pain reliever in labour and birth. It is safe for mom and baby in almost every situation.
Issues to think about when considering a waterbirth:
Planning a waterbirth takes just that; planning. You can buy a “disposable” kiddie pool cheaply (they're great!) or rent a more expensive one. Besides that, you'll need a faucet adapter, a new hose, a thermometer, a small fishnet, a hand-held mirror, flashlight, and some plastic sheeting to protect your floor and a pump for blowing up the disposable pool.
You'll need to be able to turn up your hot water to a much higher temperature either when labour starts or before. The baby needs to be born in water that is about 98-100 degrees F (NO hotter than 101 degrees). You need room for the pool to fit but you don't need a huge space. You'll probably want a semi-private, close-to-the-bathroom/bedroom location if possible.
The father of “birthing in water”, Michel Odent, found that the water was most effective (both for pain relief and ability to supercharge labour) when the woman was at least 4 or 5 cm- so, in active labour. It is a good suggestion to save the water for when you just CAN'T do anything else. It won't hurt you if you get in sooner, but it can slow things down. (You'll be so relaxed, remember!)
Think about whether or not you might want to get out or stay in the pool to deliver the placenta. It might end up being a decision you make on the spot, and that's OK too. Most midwives don't care either way as long as everything is looking good for you and baby.
Even though you are in a pool, keep drinking (and eating, if you can) throughout labour. The warm water can dry you out faster than being on land, so stay hydrated.
When waterbirth isn't a great idea:
obvious fetal distress (although some complications are better handled in water)
maternal infection or fever
any excessive vaginal bleeding
positive HIV status
Informational resources and practical pool supplies:
http://www.homebirth.org.uk/ (pool “review”, birth stories, books/videos)
I Was Born in Water
Once your baby is born, you can register his/her name on the Waterbirth International website, under “I Was Born In Water”. This is free but in support of Waterbirth International because it raises awareness and acceptance of waterbirth. !