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Exploring Waterbirth

Labour and Birth in Wate

The idea of settling in to a deep hot bath appeals to the majority of women at various times in their lives. Whether dealing with menstrual cramps or a broken heart, generations of women have escaped to a deep tub and the relief of warm water. It should come as no surprise, then, that many women feel drawn to the water to labour, and even for the birth of their baby. When I first came across the concept of waterbirth, it didn’t strike me as something I would choose. Still, as I researched birth and investigated options for the gentle homebirth I wanted, I came across more and more information about the benefits of waterbirth.

How is Waterbirth Even Possible?

As soon as waterbirth even became a possibility in my mind, the obvious question came to mind… Won’t the baby drown? Babies spend the first 9 months of their lives in water. Just as when they were embraced in amniotic fluid in utero, waterbabies continue to receive their oxygen through the umbilical cord when they are born. The initiation of breathing is not triggered until they are either exposed to air, or the umbilical cord stops providing them with their oxygen. The cord is not clamped or cut until the baby has initiated breathing. This not only prevents the newborn from drowning, but allows the baby to learn to breathe gradually and gently. Though the baby is generally brought to the surface directly, it is not rushed, and the baby benefits from a gentle transition to the air, light and sound.

What Are the Benefits?

While baby benefits from going from like to like (amniotic fluid to water), the mother also benefits from immersion. Immediately upon entering the water, many women feel a sense of relief. Though the water does not take the labour away, mothers report feeling better able to cope in the water. Sometimes the difference is not noticed until the woman tries to get out of the water- many women report being desperate to get back in. The water, when deep enough, reduces the effects of gravity, which provides the woman with a sense of weightlessness. The water also distributes the pressure of the contractions on her body, further increasing her ability to manage her labour. Other benefits include: lowering raised blood pressure, increased elasticity (less chance of tearing, ladies!), faster labours, and, contrary to one of the common concerns about waterbirth, there may even be the possibility of reduced chance of infection, due to the dilution of any germs or bacteria which could be present.

Why Isn’t Everyone Jumping in?

Waterbirth isn’t for everyone. It just doesn’t appeal to some. Others very much enjoy labouring in the water, but feel the need to get out for the birth. Just as with any birth option or ‘method’, it is important for each individual woman to listen to her body and what feels right for her. There are also situations that contraindicate underwater birth, and women should consult with their caregivers if any concerns arise. Unfortunately, waterbirth is not always an available option to all who wish it. Although most midwives will gladly attend a waterbirth, there are very few hospitals in our province that will allow it. Some simply do not yet have protocols, so if you would like a waterbirth- ask! Let them know you would like it. Many hospitals around the province have started to install tubs in their birthing rooms, but even if yours doesn’t, inquire as to whether you can bring in your own.

Options to Consider

A variety of venues may be used for waterbirths. Though in other parts of the world waterbirths may take place in a warm sea, here in Canada, most waterbirths require some kind of tub or pool. Some women are happy to merely sit in water in their bath tub or a children’s paddling pool, this provides them with the comfort of water, heat and the tissue elasticity. However, for the all the benefits of deep immersion, as well as increased mobility, the water should ideally come to at least nipple height, when sitting. There are pools and tubs available for rent or sale.They vary in size, price, and features which may include firmness of walls, heaters and even jets.

Disclaimer : All information presented on this website is for your consideration and information. It shouldn\'t be taken as medical advice. Consider and research carefully before you take any action on anything you read anywhere. Consult appropriate health professonals before you act on anything influencing your well-being and health, or that of any minors in your care. Some information here is expressed opinion. There will be differing opinions. What suits one family, may not suit another. We wish you the best in your information gathering, and decision making!

By Nicole Katerberg Colibaba