Think of the soothing feeling that comes over you in a calm, quiet place with a pool of water. Whether you’re imagining of the pools at your favorite spa, your Jacuzzi tub at home, or a hot spring along your favorite hike, there is an undeniable welcoming feeling associated with being in or around warm water. Imagine how the therapeutic relief that comes with dipping into any one of these pools of water could translate to labor and childbirth, and you have the essence of why water birth is one of the most calming ways you can welcome your baby into the world.
One of the key elements behind the success of water birth experiences for both mother and baby is in the reduction of stress. Hormones that are released during stress can actually raise blood pressure and cause labor to slow down. A laboring mother in a birthing pool is often able to remain in a less stressed state throughout labor, reducing the levels of stress hormones released, and also facilitating deep breathing that reduces the pain of contractions.
In addition to breathing better, being immersed in water is known to have an analgesic effect on laboring mothers, much in the same way that slipping into a spa or bath can relieve muscle aches. Some studies reveal that about half of first time mothers require pain-relieving drugs during non water births, compared to only a quarter of those who choose water birth for labor or delivery. If having a natural birthing plan in place is important to you, water birth can help make this a more likely reality.
While contractions are working to help your baby descend during labor and childbirth, water birth allows another amazing force to help your body during this monumental task: buoyancy. The gentle force that water exerts on your partially submerged body makes you feel lighter, and allows easier movement. The freedom of being in motion and the feeling of lightness that comes with being buoyant can help a laboring mother feel more in control, as she is able to move freely throughout the tub. One important thing to remember is that while you enjoy freedom that comes with a water birth, you should never be left alone in the birth pool. Always have a labor support companion, such as a family member, midwife, or birth doula present with you during a water birth.
A Gentle Welcome For Your Baby
While some mothers choose to labor in water but give birth outside of a pool, the transition from womb to water is believed by some to be less traumatic for babies. This is mostly supported by anecdotal evidence that babies born into water appear calmer and tend to cry less than babies born into the air.
Many women who have experienced water birth are vocal about the positivity of their experience, but it might not feel right for you at the time. Your plan to experience water birth may need to be revised if you’d feel more comfortable elsewhere, or due to complications such as slow labor, bleeding, or the need for certain types of medication or monitoring equipment. While water birth is a wonderful option for many women during labor and childbirth, it isn’t always possible, and it’s important to remember that revised plans are part of the wonderful unpredictability of child birth.
If you’d like more information to decide whether water birth is right for you, we recommend you visit Water Birth International, and inquire with local providers and hospitals in your area to see what water birth options exist for you.