Water birthing is the process of giving birth while the mother is partially immersed in warm water. While it is a relatively new concept in the United States, water birthing is now entering mainstream birthing hospitals.
What to Expect – Preparation
Proponents of water birth say that it is a more natural process. A baby has been living in water for nine or ten months already. Coming into this world in the same kind of medium is believed to be less traumatic and an easier transition.
The mother will use a pool or tub that is partially filled with water. The water must be maintained at a certain temperature. Ideal temperature is equal to the internal environment of the body (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Keeping the water at body temperature prevents the mother’s temperature from rising too high and endangering the baby.
The water is also continually changed to keep it crystal clear. The doctor or midwife needs a clear view of the cervix and the baby as it passes out of the birth canal so that any potential problems can be detected early and resolved.
The water level is also important. The mother’s lower half is submerged in water when she sits, but her body needs to remain stable, not buoyant, so that she can push when the time comes. Too much water will cause her to float and lose her position.
What to Expect – Birth
According to experts in water birthing, immersion in water eases the pain of the contractions. The body begins to relax somewhat so the mother’s cervix can dilate without as much pain.
Doctors who advocate the water birth method don’t recommend that a mother enter the birthing pool until after early labor. Immersion before five centimeters of dilation is too early. When you first enter the water, contractions seem to speed up due to natural oxytocin in the body. This increased flow can last for a couple of hours, long enough to dilate to delivery size. If a woman sits in the water too long, the surge stops and labor is stalled. Getting closer to full dilation makes a better use of that oxytocin spike.
Many mothers believe there are advantages to letting their baby emerge from water in the womb to water in the birthing pool. For women who want an alternative to the delivery bed, water birth may offer the calm, quiet delivery she is hoping for.