Natural Water Birth
Delivering your baby
Water birth refers to the act of giving birth in warm water. Some women choose to give birth in water, while others prefer to remain in the water. Water birth is based on the theory that the baby is already in the amniotic fluid sac for nine-months. This means that the baby is more comfortable in water birth. You can have your baby delivered in a hospital or birthing center.
Water birth is a natural option for delivery. It has many benefits and potential risks. A typical natural water birth delivery involves basic processes that can be sometimes excruciating to the mother, such as episiotomy. The mother then spends her final stages of labor in a tub or pool, usually of warm water. This will allow the mother to relax more, to be more comfortable, and over all to have a more simple delivery.
Mothers who want natural childbirth without epidurals or medication often choose water birth. Natural water birth is a controversial topic. It's an attractive option for many women since it's inexpensive, uncomplicated, and parent-controlled—but as with anything, there are upsides and downsides.
What are the potential health benefits of water birth?
A growing number of midwives and birthing centers, as well as obstetricians, believe that reducing stress during labor and delivery can reduce the risk of fetal complications. However, water births should always be performed under the supervision and guidance of qualified healthcare providers.
Benefits for Mother
Warm water can be a relaxing, soothing, and comforting experience. Recent research has shown that water birth can increase women's energy, and buoyancy can lower a mother’s body weight. This allows for free movement and new positioning. Buoyancy promotes more effective uterine contractions, enhances blood circulation, which results in better oxygenation for the uterine muscles and less pain for the mother and more oxygen for her baby.
An anxiety-related high blood pressure is often reduced by water immersion. The water appears to lower stress hormones. It allows the mother to relax and produces endorphins that act as pain-inhibitors.
Water makes the perineum elastic and more flexible, which reduces the severity of tear and the need to have stitches and an episiotomy. The relaxation of the laboring woman causes her to be mentally calm and able to focus on the birth process. The water gives you a greater sense of privacy, which reduces anxiety and inhibitions.
Benefits for baby
- It offers a similar environment to the amniotic sac.
- Reduces stress and anxiety associated with birthing, as well as increasing reassurance and a feeling of security.
Risks of water birth
Birth is a big deal. Water births are a big deal, too. But water birth risks? They're a big deal, too. The good news is that water births themselves are not significantly more dangerous than birth out of water, but when they take place at home—and most of them do—there is an increased risk. Here, what you need to know about water birth risks.
Being water born, while having your baby, means that you are surrounded by water in a tub. This is a completely different experience compared to having your baby in a hospital and delivery room where there are dry and sterilized settings. Regardless of the setting however, the water and soap used can pose a serious threat to the newborn baby that could affect their health later on down the road. While there have been no reported cases of babies becoming ill with infections as a direct result of water birth, this certainly doesn't mean they never occur. Most sources agree that the danger lies in feces getting into the water and potentially causing an infection. Sometimes poop is diluted enough by the water that it isn't dangerous. But other times the concentration is so high that if babies inhale it, they may get sick.
The fact is, a baby rises out of the water with his or her head tilted back in order to breathe immediately after birth; body temperature changes rapidly as well, leading to a release of stress hormones, including adrenaline. This overcomes the dive reflex (which functions well when the baby is surrounded by warm, amniotic fluid) so that there is no pause in breathing before air hits airways. When bacteria which might be present can get past a baby's defenses, infection occurs.
Meconium aspiration is a medical term that means before the baby is born, it has its first bowel movement and inhales the contaminated amniotic fluid, which causes respiratory problems. Doctors and midwives are able to tell if this has happened when the water breaks because meconium is typically green, sticky, chunky, and thick. Extra precautions have to be taken when the first bowel movement occurs prior to delivery. A doctor or midwife needs immediate access to the baby to be able to clear his airways.
Tearing the Umbilical Cord
As water birth has become more popular, there is increased risk of the umbilical cord being torn during the birth. The judge actually admitted during the trial that she would choose this option if it were her own child. Because of this, some midwives have decided to take a cautious approach as well as some hospitals. Although these occurrences are rare if properly controlled and monitored, it's definitely an added risk that parents should be aware of before making their decision.
Getting a water birth tub
The key to achieving buoyancy, and ideally pain relief, is in the choice of water birth tub. Most birthing tubs are inflatable and similar to a kiddie pool. Their pliable sides are softer than those of a regular bathtub, so they allow women to labor in different positions. Unlike a kiddie pool, however, the tubs are wide and deep enough to fully submerge a pregnant belly and, if desired, a partner as well.