Texting my family at 8cm!
When I gave birth to my fifth baby, I decided to utilize the benefits of water birth. After four “land” or “dry” births, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the idea of having my baby in water sounded appealing, especially when I learned that my midwife was supportive of water birth.
After telling a few family members that I was seeing a midwife and planned to have a home birth, there were some concerns. But there were even more questions when I revealed that I planned to have a water birth. Hearing their questions excited me, as it meant I got to research the topic! The more I learned, the more my mind was set.
I know that not all women enjoy the sensation of water. But if you’re considering water birth and have concerns about things you have heard, read on. I asked Anna Marie Tarbet, a Licensed Midwife in Arkansas who has attended many water births, if she could help clarify the top seven questions and concerns that I’ve heard over the years.
1) I heard that laboring in water can slow labor. Is this true?
Not usually. Water often actually speeds up labor. Once a woman gets in the water she can relax and her cervix can open faster. She’s able to move around freely, which helps promote the descent of the baby.
2) If I give birth to the baby in water, will it drown?
No, the baby won’t drown. Babies are grown in amniotic fluid! Once the baby comes to the surface, air touches the skin, which signals the baby’s body to start breathing. Babies born in the water actually adjust more quickly and easily to the outside world, and pink up and breathe on their own better, compared to those who are born out of water. It’s even recommended to keep the baby under water for 5 seconds to promote a smoother transition.
3) Is it hygienic to give birth in water, especially if the mother passes blood, urine, etc.? I’ve heard not to get into a tub of water if my water breaks because of risk of infections. How does this apply to water birth?
One of the most beneficial things about birthing in water is that it dilutes everything, making it unlikely for any infection to occur. Studies have shown that even with ruptured membranes, the risk of infection isn’t an issue. There’s even a reduced risk of GBS, because of the dilution.
4) If the baby or mother needs an intervention, how easy is it to get out of the water?
Most necessary interventions are easily handled with the woman in the water. If a woman needs to get out of the water, the midwife, her apprentice or assistant, and spouse are able to work together to handle getting the mother out of the water easily and quickly.
5) Can the placenta be delivered in the water? I heard that I can give birth to the baby in water but will need to get out to deliver the placenta.
Different midwives have different protocols. Some feel perfectly comfortable letting the mother deliver the placenta in the water, whereas others feel it’s harder to assess blood loss and other potential complications while she’s still in the water.
6) Does water birth really help with pain?
YES!!!!! Water birth helps a woman relax, which in turn both reduces pain caused by tension, and causes her body to produce pain inhibitors that make it easier to handle contractions and pushing. It has also been proven to lower blood pressure and reduce perineal trauma.
It’s said that a woman will never forget her birth experience–how she’s treated and how she feels. I remember details from each of my births, but this baby’s stood out.
Did the water help with pain relief during labor? Yes! The water was amazing. No, it wasn’t completely painless, but I was able to stay relaxed and focused. As I approached transition, I realized that I wasn’t crinkling up my forehead or curling under my toes through each contraction as I had in the past.
And when the baby was born, scooping him up from the water and bringing him to my chest was the most amazing moment of my life. No one immediately cut the cord and whisked him away from me to put him under a warming lamp. I didn’t watch from a distance as someone poked and prodded my brand new baby the moment he was born.
Instead, he remained in my arms, and together we cuddled in the warm water until his cord stopped pulsing. After his cord was cut, we moved onto my bed, where we nursed and snuggled down together for a well-deserved rest and nap.
For more information on water birth, visit Waterbirth International.
What about you? Have you had a water birth or do you plan to? What are your concerns? What are you excited about?