I still remember the day I decided I was going to have a water birth. I was newly married, nowhere near contemplating having children yet living in a one bedroom apartment with my husband. I can still remember sitting at my computer desk when I somehow stumbled upon information about water birth. I had never heard of it nor had anyone I knew of at the time. But the more I read about it, the more I was convinced and decided then and there I was going to have a water birth. When I told my husband and best friend, they both thought I was crazy but that didn’t matter to me. And all these years later (around 7), I had the water birth I planned on. I’m so thankful I stumbled upon that information! What a wonderful experience it was!
The benefits of water birth are amazing! The first book I read that had a lot of great information about water births was Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper. Here are some of the wonderful benefits a mother and baby experience when a mother births her baby in the water:
- Greater comfort and mobility. The mother has much greater ease and freedom to move spontaneously and to change position to assist the descent of the baby.
- Reduction of pressure on the abdomen. Buoyancy promotes more efficient uterine contractions and better blood circulation, resulting in better oxygenation of the uterine muscles, less pain for the mother, and more oxygen for the baby.
- Promotes deeper relaxation. As a woman relaxes deeply in water, her hormones kick in and she starts progressing faster and with more rhythm; labor becomes more efficient.
- Water relaxes the pelvic floor muscles.
- Water minimizes pain so effectively that for most women other pain control methods are no longer needed.
- Immersion is often more effective and safer than an epidural. Some people call waterbirth an “aquadural” or “the midwife’s epidural”.
- Lowering of blood pressure. When anxiety is causing high blood pressure, immersion in water often helps lower it.
- Change of consciousness. Immersion helps relieve anxiety and promotes relaxation. Water helps a woman to let go and focus inward as labor strengthens.
- Empowerment of the mother. When a woman delivers her baby while remaining awake, aware and in control, it greatly enhances the birth experience for her and becomes a source of great personal strength and power that enriches her life forever.
- Water seems to alleviate stress-related hormones, allowing the mother’s body to produce endorphins, which are pain-inhibitors.
- Water causes the perineum to become more elastic and relaxed, which reduces the incidence and severity of tearing and the need for an episiotomy and stitches.
What about the risks? Is it safe? Check out Barbara Harper’s article on this to get all the answers to those questions. Just briefly, though, babies do not breathe until exposed to the air. “As soon as the newborn senses a change in environment from the water into the air, a complex chain of chemical, hormonal and physical responses initiate the baby’s first breath.” This is the question I see most asked and you can read all the reasons why in the article linked above.
I think, more than research, what speaks to me is hearing other women’s stories and experiences. I have read and heard a lot of wonderful water birth stories and wanted to share mine with you.
For me, once the contractions kicked in and I needed to stop and concentrate through them, I wanted to be in the water. While at home, before I went to the birth center, I got into the water and felt instant comfort and reduced pain. I ate the chicken and rice “labor day” soup my mom had prepared for me and shortly after that, we were off to the birth center! Once we arrived at the birth center, I had to wait a little while to get in since I was still in early labor. The contractions were harder for me to deal with out of the water. I knew I needed to wait a little while though and we tried different techniques for the contractions. The worst was laying on the bed though so I didn’t do that much at all! It wasn’t too long and I was in the water! It was wonderful! It really took the edge off the pain. I could just focus within and relax through the contractions. I even slept through some honestly! For the most part, from then on out I was in the water, only getting out to go to the bathroom, to be checked or to have the water reheated. At 8:09 am, my beautiful baby girl, Marcella, was born in the water. I pushed a little sooner than I should have because I could feel she would be here with one more push and got excited! As a result, I don’t think everyone was quite ready so she swam out to us. She was crying which I wasn’t expecting because most water babies don’t but Marcella does a lot of things differently so this is no surprise. She was placed on me immediately and the whole experience was incredible! I can’t wait to do it again!
If you had a water birth, I would love to hear your experience as well!