Water Birth: The Benefits And Risks
Water birth is the process of giving birth in a tub of warm water. Some women choose to labor in the water and get out for delivery. Other women decide to stay in the water for the delivery as well. The theory behind water birth is that since the baby has already been in the amniotic fluid sac for nine months, birthing in a similar environment is calming for the baby and less stressful for the mother. Benefits of water birth include:
- Water facilitates mobility and enables the mother to assume any position that is comfortable for labor and birth
- Gives the mother more feelings of control
- Provides pain relief
- Promotes relaxation
- Conserves a mother’s energy during labor
- Reduces the need for drugs and interventions
Placing a pool of water in a birth room changes the atmosphere immediately. Voices get softer, the mother stays calmer and everyone becomes less stressed.
The effect of buoyancy that deep water immersion creates allows spontaneous movement of the mother. No one has to help the mother get into a new position. She moves as her body and the position of the baby dictate. Movement helps open the pelvis, allowing the baby to descend.
Many women, midwives, and doctors acknowledge the analgesic effect of water. Thousands of these mothers state they would never be able to consider laboring without water again.
Water Birth at WellStar North Fulton Hospital
WellStar North Fulton Hospital supports any woman’s decision to have a birth utilizing natural childbirth options. However, safety for the mom and baby is always our top priority.
Women requesting a water birth must be screened and approved in advance. In addition, water immersion class must be completed with the three years of the delivery date. When laboring in the tub, nurses will provide continuous monitoring to ensure that the mother and baby are still in good condition to deliver as a water birth.
Those who consent to a water birth, acknowledge that if necessary, the desire to delivery in the water will be abandoned if the safety of the mom and baby is in question.
What is the temperature of the water?
Water should be monitored at a temperature that is comfortable for the mother, usually between 98.6-100.9 degrees Fahrenheit. Water temperature should not exceed 101 degrees Fahrenheit as it could lead to an increase in the mother’s body temperature, which could cause the baby’s heart rate to increase. It is a good idea to have plenty of water to drink and cold cloths for the mother’s face and neck. A cool facial mist from a spray bottle is a welcome relief for some mothers as well.
How long is baby in the water after the birth?
Practitioners usually bring the baby out of the water within the first few seconds after birth. The safe approach is to remove the baby, without hurrying, and gently place him upright onto the mother’s chest.
When should I get into the water?
A woman should be encouraged to use the labor pool whenever she wants. However, if a mother chooses to get into the water in early labor, before her contractions are strong and close together, the water may relax her enough to slow or stop labor altogether. That is why some practitioners limit the use of the pool until labor patterns are established and the cervix is dilated to at least 5 centimeters.
There is some physiological data that supports this rule, but each and every situation must be evaluated on its own. Some mothers find a bath in early labor useful for its calming effect and to determine if labor has actually started. If contractions are strong and regular, no matter how dilated the cervix is, a bath might be in order to help the mother to relax enough to facilitate dilation.
Therefore, it has been suggested that the bath be used in a “trial of water” for at least one hour and allow the mother to judge its effectiveness.