Water birth is the practice of spending part of labor and/or delivery in a pool filled with warm water. Many laboring moms enjoy a water birth because the warm water helps their body relax, making it easier to handle contractions. Water birth is a practice widely practiced by midwives and is an important part of the curriculum in any doula course. If you are new to the idea of water birth, you might be wondering what it entails and how safe it is for mom and baby.
What is a Water Birth?
A water birth is when an expectant mother experiences labor in a warm bath of water, ultimately delivering the baby in the water. The tub can be a permanent fixture in a birthing center, or in the event of home birth, even specially erected to fit the mother’s needs. The water will be warm with coarse rock salt added.
Benefits of a Water Birth
There are a few benefits that come along with having a water birth, including the following:
- Warm water can help ease some of the discomforts of labor and serve as pain management for the mother.
- Water provides the mother with the ability to experience weightlessness while in the water, allowing her to get into comfortable labor positions.
- It creates a calm environment for the baby to be born.
Can My Baby Drown During a Water Birth?
A common concern that many expectant mothers have regarding a water birth is whether there is a risk of their new baby dying. When delivered correctly, the baby will go from one fluid environment in-utero to another. When this happens, the baby is still attached to the umbilical cord, which means that they are still receiving oxygen from the mother. Newborns also have something that is known as “dive reflex,” what this means is that any water that the baby encounters will be swallowed and not inhaled. A baby will only take its first breath once it is taken out of the water or is exposed to a temperature change.
How Long Do You Stay in the Water?
Another common question or concern that many expectant mothers have is how long they are going to stay in the water. Many want to know if they can spend the entire duration of their labor in the water, or if they are restricted to a limited time period or stage of labor. For mothers that are experiencing pain, and determine that they need some form of pain management, such as an epidural, can leave the birthing bath. If at any point you feel unhappy or uncomfortable, you can get out of the bath and try to find comfort and happiness in another position. If there are any complications with either the delivery or with the baby, the mother may have to get out of the water.
Can I Have a Water Birth in my Tub at Home?
When considering a water birth at home, there are a few things to consider. A trained medical professional with experience with water birthing should attend. It is important that both the mother and the baby be closely monitored throughout the process. If at any time there are signs of problems or complications, the birth may need to be managed differently. That is why it is important that you have a doula on your birthing team who knows your wishes and will help you advocate for them. Yet, it is equally important to listen to the medical professionals who are advising you on your birthing options, and what is best for both you and your baby.
Many women elect to have a home birth because it is an intimate and personalized experience. When monitored by a midwife and supported by a woman who has completed a certified doula course, mother and baby are in good hands. If you are considering having a water birth for your labor and delivery, talk to your doula about what you need to know to determine if a water birth is right for you.