Reasons To Have A Water Birth
Relaxation Before and During Birth.
Water is commonly considered a great aid in relaxation. How often do we all come home from a hard day at work, our limbs are tired and our muscles knotted from stress and all we want to do is draw a deep, hot bath and soak for as long as possible to wind down? During labour and childbirth, warm water can have similar or, as has been recorded, a more substantial effect: a reduction in stress hormones in your body has been recorded; your heart rate and blood pressure are lowered; your respiratory rate lowers and you consume less oxygen. Cramps and tiredness are reduced as labour progresses as the water helps warm up your uterus. Birthing in the birth pool helps the baby be born more easily as it helps relax the pelvic floor muscles. It also helps soften the perineum thus reducing the risk of tearing. This all help you to conserve energy needed for the second stage of labour.
In addition, the depth of our birth pools and the volume of water contained within, provide a supportive medium and a cocooning environment conducive to a more pleasurable birthing experience. Relaxed child birth = relaxed mother = relaxed baby, everyone is a winner.
Some authorities argue that the warm water in the birth pool increases the suppleness of our skin and this can help minimise the risk of tearing. Although this has not yet been proven, many women are convinced that water can play a huge role in not tearing during childbirth, particularly if a birth pool is used on several occasions over a period of time.
Some studies, including a report by N.I.C.E., have indicated that water birth is second only to the epidural in pain relief and so birthing in water can provide women with an alternative to birthing with medical intervention for pain relief. Although a water birth can improve your ability to relax, which may well assist making the pain more bearable, it is important to state that water birthing is unlikely to take away the pain. Indeed, some studies demonstrate that endorphin levels diminish when labouring in a birthing pool - a sign that pain levels do lessen. Remember, it will be easier to plan and undertake a water birth and then opt for medical intervention in hospital if necessary, than it is to plan a hospital birth and then change your mind and opt for a water birth. Indeed, many choose to combine the use of a birth pool with gas and air, which can be used easily whilst in the birthing pool (other forms of medication and intervention are normally only available in a hospital so please discuss this with your midwife).
Freedom of Movement
The buoyancy that water provides completely supports the weight of your body and offers you excellent mobility during labour, enabling you to select any position you choose more easily and effectively. This means that resting between contractions is easier and fatigue or exhaustion is less likely to be an issue. Even women who suffer from pelvic girdle pain or Severe Pelvic Discomfort can often find it much easier to squat in water – this creates a lot more space in the pelvic region for baby to descend.
Maintaining Control of Your Birth
The birth pool creates a cocoon-like zone where you can find a sanctuary from, what some women consider to be unwanted obstetric practices. When immersed in the water within the birth pool it is much more difficult to others in interrupt or distract you and it empowers you by forcing others to seek your consent to get close to you. The empowerment and privacy engendered by the birth pool assists women to labour more efficiently. Many women say that the world beyond the pool becomes ephemeral, thereby allowing them to focus on the labour.
Partner Participation in the Birth Experience
A birth pool offers you the unique option for you partner to be more proactively involved in the birth than in more conventional settings. Your partner can, if you desire, enter the pool with you and hold you during labour, Allowing your partner into the birth pool with you will create a more inclusive environment for your partner and involve from the very moment of birth.
A Brief History Of Water Birth
Contrary to the opinion of many, labouring in water has been used by women for millennia. This is supported by Janet Balaskas, a writer on water births. She describes the oral histories of South Pacific Islanders giving birth in shallow seawater and the descriptions of Egyptian pharaohs born in water. Even today in places such as Guyana, in South America, women go to a special place at the local river to give birth.
Giving birth in water (rather than labouring in it) is a relatively recent development in the Western world. The first water birth that we know about in Europe was in 1803 in France. A mother whose labour had been extremely long and difficult was finally helped to give birth in a tub of warm water.
During the 1960s, Soviet researcher Igor Charkovsky undertook considerable research into the safety and possible benefits of water birth in the Soviet Union. In the late 1960s, French obstetrician Frederick Leboyer developed the practice of immersing newly-born infants in warm water to help ease the transition from the womb to the outside world, and to mitigate the effects of any possible birth trauma.
Another French obstetrician, Michel Odent, built upon Leboyer's work. He began using the warm-water birth pool for pain relief for the mother, and as a way to normalise the birth process. During these trials, some of the women refused to get out of the water to finish giving birth, this led Odent to research the possible benefits for the baby of being born under water, as well as the potential problems in such births. By the late 1990s, thousands of women had given birth at Odent's birthing centre at Pithiviers, and this assisted in the diffusion of water births throughout the rest of the Western world.
Water birth was introduced to the United States by individuals who pioneered birthing in water through the home birth movement. This quickly led to the introduction into the medical environment of hospitals and free-standing birth centres by midwives and obstetricians. In the UK today, it is estimated that more than three-quarters of all National Health Service hospitals in the UK provide this option for labouring women.