Benefits of Having a Water Birth
So you are thinking about having a water birth, but aren’t yet sure if it is the right path for you to take? What about the pain? What if my newborn inhales a big lungful of water? In this article, you will learn more about the benefits of a water birth, whether at home or at a birthing center, and the previously mentioned questions will be answered.
First let’s talk about the basics of a water birth. To put it simply, a water birth is, as the name suggests, giving birth in a body of water. No, not your local pond or pool. Birthing pools are widely available at birthing centers, and can be rented for home use for around 350 US dollars.
If that price sounds absurd to you, and no birthing centers are nearby, you can purchase a cheap blow up kiddie pool for around thirty US dollars. It isn’t as deep as a birthing pool, but it definitely works well. Under no circumstance should you ever be left unattended while in the water. You can choose to go through labor and delivery in the birthing pool, or get out and onto land for the delivery part. Most midwives encourage the mother to be on dry land at least for the birth of the placenta, if nothing else. This is encouraged because the midwife can more easily assess the amount of blood loss and will know quicker if too much is lost.
There are more benefits to a water birth than you can count on two hands, which is an outstanding positive when considering there are virtually no risks (so long as your pregnancy is low risk and you and your unborn child are healthy).
What Can You Expect?
First, we will cover the benefits a water birth provides your child. When a baby is in the womb, he/she is encased in the amniotic sac, which is essentially water. The entirety of his/her creation is spent floating around in warm fluid, without a care in the world. When birthing in water, the experience is believed by many to be less traumatic and stressful on the baby, because he/she is merely moving from one body of water to another. The water in the birthing pool is to be kept between ninety-seven and one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, as close to body temperature as possible. This will further keep the baby feeling secure as there is little to no shift in temperature.
Remember that third question I asked you in the beginning of all this? Babies are protected by their “dive reflex” which is the instinct to close their airway, or hold their breath, when submerged in water. A baby does not breathe in air until the umbilical cord is cut, and/or until he/she feels the cold air of the world brush against the face. Mothers and midwives who have experienced a water birth notice how much calmer a baby appears when birthed this way. And their first cry even sounds different, in a good way, of course.
Are there benefits to the mother?
Now let’s talk about the benefits a water birth provides you, the incredible woman pushing a baby into the world. Well, to start off, warm water feels incredible! Who doesn’t enjoy relaxing in a nice perfectly heated bath, hot tub, or Jacuzzi? I sure cannot think of anyone.
It is relaxing and calming. Being partially submerged in the birthing pool helps you feel more secure. You aren’t exposed to everything and everyone, which is comforting to most people. Not being anxious about prying eyes or feeling on display can help you relax even more. Furthermore, water keeps you buoyant, causing you to feel lighter, making moving around or shifting positions much easier than if you were in a bed. When you don’t need help to move, you feel in control, thus helping you to relax and feel much safer in the situation. Taking some of that weight off of you can help to ease your back. By making it easier to move, you are able to conserve precious energy. You’ll need all of that stored energy later on for pushing. Your buoyancy also aids you tremendously if you wish to be upright to push, to work with gravity. Squatting is the birthing position that comes to mind.
It is most definitely a more agreeable position with gravity than being on your back with your legs up in stirrups, that’s for sure. Being upright also aids the fetal ejection reflex, instead of hindering it. What is the fetal ejection reflex you ask? It is the sudden strong adrenaline rush and urge to push right at the end of delivery, when the baby is moving from the uterus to the birth canal and delivered in a few intense, strong pushes.
What about the Pain?
Here is the answer to that second question I asked you way back at the beginning of this article! Being in water can help to lower blood pressure, and aid in relaxing muscles, which in turn provides better circulation and blood flow. With the improved circulation and relaxed muscles, comes pain management. That’s right, being in water also promotes the production of endorphins, the pain-relieving hormones. This all enables you to have a drug-free birth! This also helps to speed up labor. Yes, it’s true! The stress hormones noradrenaline and catecholamine raise your blood pressure, in turn stalling your labor.
When relaxed, you aren’t producing stress hormones, but instead producing those endorphins I mentioned a moment ago, so your labor is sped up a bit. Staying relaxed also helps to keep a steady rhythm of contractions.
You know how when you stay in water for a little while, your fingers and toes shrivel up and look like raisins? Well, that is actually your skin taking in water, not losing water like many people tend to think. Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this, I promise!
Being in the water will cause your skin to absorb water, making it more elastic. This helps the perineum (that bit of skin between the vaginal opening and the anus) become more stretchy, lessening the possibility of it tearing. It also lessens the possibility of you needing an episiotomy. Because who wants to have to get stitches back there? Nobody, that’s who!
The chance for a C-section to be necessary is lessened as well with this birthing method. The water birth is highly praised by mothers who have experienced it, with most saying they would have another birth this way. Experienced providers also agree, and they rank this birthing method highly as well.
Alright, I have a few final loose ends to tie up. Let’s go over the major benefits of a water birth, shall we?
First, it is deeply relaxing, enabling the mother to experience natural pain relief, with the production of endorphins, providing her with a drug free labor, and often speeding up the natural process. The mother is buoyant in the water, alleviating pressure on her body, and allowing her to move freely, which in turn gives her a feeling of control, helping her feel secure.
The baby benefits by having a calmer, smoother introduction to the world, as the water is roughly the same temperature as the womb and amniotic sac. Finally, the mother is able to work with gravity rather than against it, should she choose to give birth upright while in the pool. This method also aids the fetal ejaculation reflex, which is often hindered when birthing while on the back.
Ultimately, you have to make the choice as to whether or not you feel a water birth is the right birthing plan for you. It is important that you have all of the information laid out, and that you discuss everything with your midwife, doula, and birthing partner. Many feel it is an incredible experience and one they look back on with fondness. Whether you choose to birth in the water or on land, you know what is best for you and your baby.