4 Questions About Water Birth Answered
Expectant mothers need to decide on so many things. If you are pregnant, you have to choose a doctor and hospital or maternity services provider. You also have to decide on where to give birth and how.
If you’ve done any research about pregnancy and childbirth, one of the non-traditional ways of giving birth that you must have learned about is water birth. If this option is something you’re considering, in this article, you’ll know more about water birth and how it works.
1. What Is Water Birth?
Water birth means exactly what it seems: you give birth in a pool or tub of warm water.
Although this is not technically accurate all the time. In water birth, you can labour in the water and deliver in the delivery room. Or, you can have both labour and delivery in the water.
But it is a water birth when a pool of temperature-controlled water is involved in your labour, delivery, or both.
2. How Does Water Birth Work?
In a water birth, a birthing pool is filled with warm water. The water temperature is carefully controlled and must be between 35°C to 37°C in the first stage of labour and precisely 37°C when it’s time to give birth.
The water can’t be too hot, or the mother and the baby might get dehydrated. However, it can’t be cold because that would not be comfortable for both mother and baby. Thus, the water temperature is actively monitored and controlled in water birth.
● First Stage of Labour
You enter the birthing pool in the first stage or the labour phase. This stage includes both early labour and active labour.
Early Labour Phase
The early labour phase is characterised by mild and irregular contractions and a clear, pink, or bloody discharge. Your cervix starts opening or dilating at this phase.
The early labour phase can last from hours to days. As such, you probably don’t want to get into the birthing pool just yet at this phase.
Strong and regular contractions characterise the active labour phase. The contractions are also closer to each other than at the early labour phase, and the interval between contractions progressively gets shorter as time passes. The cervix also dilates from 6 cm to 10 cm at this stage.
Stage two or actual childbirth will follow the active labour phase, although it might be four to eight hours yet before you actually deliver your baby.
When your contractions are well established, the pain will also intensify. When the pain is sharp and intense, you can go into the birthing pool.
● Second Stage of Childbirth
The baby will be born during the second stage. You may elect to give birth in the birthing pool or choose to leave the pool and give birth on a delivery table. It’s your choice, but make sure you discuss this with your doctor beforehand.
If you decide to give birth in the water, you will go through natural vaginal delivery with the support and guidance of your midwife or doctor. Once the baby is out and slides into the water, your doctor will gently take hold of it and raise it, head first, to the surface.
The doctor will then place the baby on your chest for important skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding if the baby wants to suckle.
● Third Stage or Placenta Delivery
If you chose to give birth in the birthing pool, you would have to move to the delivery table for this stage.
3. What Are the Advantages of Water Birth?
There are many advantages to water birth. They primarily stem from the fact that water is buoyant and the temperature-controlled water soothes and helps expectant mothers relax.
The following are a few of the main advantages of water birth.
● Reduces the Risk of Tearing
The water helps relax the pelvic floor muscles. It also helps soften and relax the skin between the vagina and the anus, improving its elasticity and reducing the risk of it tearing during labour and delivery.
● Reduces Blood Pressure
The soothing and relaxing water can help reduce the mother’s anxiety about childbirth which, in turn, could cause high blood pressure.
● Helps Reduce Labour Pains
The calming and relaxing effect of warm water can reduce stress hormones and trigger the production of endorphins, which are natural pain inhibitors.
For greater relaxation, the mother can also get a massage while in the birthing pool. A body massage has many health benefits. And when a woman is in labour, a massage can help her relax and reduce the intensity of her labour pains.
● Improves Comfort and Mobility
The buoyant water helps support the expectant mother’s weight. The buoyancy will make her feel more comfortable. It also helps her become more mobile, so she can move easily to assume a more comfortable position.
● Provides a Gentler Way of Birth for the Baby
Babies develop in a sac filled with amniotic fluid. Through water birth, the baby is born in an environment similar to what it has been accustomed to for nine months. Thus, the transition makes the baby feel more at ease.
In fact, babies born in water tend to be born with their eyes open and are usually very calm.
4. Is Water Birth Safe for the Baby?
Water birth is safe for the baby. As long as medical professionals are available to supervise the procedure, there should be very minimal risk to the baby.
When the baby is born in water, drowning is not a concern. The baby will continue to get its oxygen through the umbilical cord, so accidentally breathing in the water in the pool won’t be a problem.
After the doctor raises the baby to the water’s surface, the baby will start to breathe. At that point, of course, the baby cannot be resubmerged in water.
Medical professionals must supervise the entire process to ensure safe water labour and delivery for both the mother and baby.
Water Birth Is a Viable Birthing Option
If you’re interested in water birth, ask your obstetrician to learn more about it and how you will go about it if you choose it as your delivery method.
Water birth has many benefits for both mother and baby. However, it is not for everyone.
Before you do it, make sure it is an appropriate option, given your medical history and the condition of your pregnancy. So, get an assessment from your doctor beforehand to check if the procedure is right for you.