Women have been using water to ease the pain of labour and help with the birthing process for thousands of years. Relaxing in a warm tub, some women find that stress levels are reduced. And the lower your stress levels, the greater your body’s ability to produce pain-inhibiting endorphins that complement labour, rather than complicate and prolong it.
What is water birth?
During a water birth, the mother submerges herself in warm, body temperature water. In water births, the temperature of the pool should remain between 32-37 degrees elsius. This ensures that the mother’s core temperature does not rise to a level which would endanger the baby. Staying in the water during the labour may help ease the pain of contractions and, for some women, the baby is also delivered in the water, although extreme care must be taken if this is the case.
To get the proper benefit of labouring in water, the pool or bath needs to be deep enough to cover the entire belly The most critical factor for waterbirths is not to enter the tub or birthing pool too early. Studies have shown prolonged immersion can lower the level of oxytocin in the body, which can then slow labour. Taking breaks from the water, especially if the mother desires to enter the pool in the early stages of labor, can counteract this effect.
Adding salt or essential oils to the water is not recommended. If you decide to leave the water and continue the birth out of the bath/pool, don’t worry, any birth plan should be flexible. Do what makes you feel comfortable at the time. It is always your choice.
Benefits of a water birth
- Facilitates mobility and enables the mother to assume any position which is comfortable for labor and birth
- Can speed up labor
- Can reduce blood pressure
- Can provide pain relief
- Promotes relaxation
- Conserves energy
- Can reduce the need for drugs and interventions
- Gives mother a private protected space
- Can reduce perineal trauma and eliminates episiotomies
- Can provide an easier birth for mother and a gentler welcome for baby
Water births can be arranged for in some hospitals and if you are considering a home birth, pools suitable for water births can be hired. Speak to your midwife or doctor.
This article was written by Claire Halliday for Kidspot NZ.