People have sought the wellness benefits of immersing themselves in water for centuries. It is recorded to have begun with the Roman baths and continues to today’s Caldera hot tub attractions. Whether one is looking to soothe aches and pains, to calm their restless mind, or to give birth to their child, water is quite powerful.
The process of giving birth to your child in a tub of warm water, rather than on a table in the clinic or hospital, is called Water Birth. Women sometimes prefer to go through their labor while submerged in the tub of warm water and then get out when it is time to deliver their baby. Others decide to stay in the water for the entire process.
The belief of those choosing water birth is their child has already been in the amniotic fluid sac for the past nine months, so birthing in a similar environment will provide a more gentle entrance into their world. The water birthing process is also said to be less stressful on the mother.
There is a growing number of obstetricians along with midwives, and birthing centers who are coming to realize that by reducing the stress of labor during delivery, you reduce fetal complications. This birthing alternative should never be done without the supervision of a healthcare provider.
Water Birth Basics
Going through at least part of your labor, and delivering your baby while in a pool filled with warm water is called water birth. These births can take place at home, in a birthing center, or a hospital and a healthcare professional should be with you during this time.
Hospitals and birthing centers both offer water birth facilities that are set up in a homelike atmosphere and provide more natural options for you to have your baby. During your first stages of labor, the birthing pool can ease your pain, eliminate your need for anesthesia, and make your labor go faster. The ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) says a water birth while in your first stage of labor has benefits, but delivering your baby underwater may have some risks. Your first stage of labor is from the time your contractions begin until your cervix becomes fully dilated.
Being in a warm pool of water can help you to relax and feel more comfortable. The water will allow you to move more easily than laying in a bed, and there is science to prove the water can lower your risk of severe vaginal tearing. Warm water may also improve your blood flow to your uterus; however, this point has not yet been proven.
Things can change during your second part of labor when your cervix has completely dilated, and you begin pushing to deliver your baby. If you are considering a water birth, you should talk to a healthcare professional at All Women’s Care to discuss their options regarding water birth. These are some questions you should address when considering water birth as an option for delivering your baby:
Can you have a licensed and experienced healthcare professional with you through labor and delivery?
Are there high-standards involved with the maintenance and cleaning of the birthing pool?
Are proper infection control measures in place?
Will you receive proper monitoring of yourself and your baby while you are in the pool?
Are there plans in place to remove you from the tub safely and quickly should complications arise?
What is the temperature of the pool, and is it well-regulated?
Will ample water be supplied, so you do not become dehydrated?
There is an increasing number of moms and physicians who tout the benefits of water birth, although not all deliveries are considered safe for this procedure. There are many factors to consider when you are thinking about this choice and many things you should know, so you can decide if it’s the right choice for you and your little one.
Benefits of Water Birth for the Mother
There are many benefits to choosing a water birth for your baby:
Warm water has been proven to provide comfort, soothing sensations, and to help one relax. Warm water not only provides a relaxing experience; it is good for moving. This water temp will stimulate blood flow and is often used for one to relieve stiff muscles and joints. It is said that warm water is a great way to do gentle stretching, so it makes the perfect place to move around through labor.
A woman’s energy is said to increase while in warm water during the later stages of labor.
The water provides buoyancy and lessens a mother’s body weight. This buoyancy allows you to move more freely and attain new positions that would not be as comfortable on a dry table or bed.
The buoyancy you experience promotes efficient uterine contractions and improves your blood circulation, so you achieve better oxygenation of your uterine muscles. With this buoyancy, you will experience less pain, and your baby receives more oxygen.
When you are immersed in warm water, your blood pressure lowers. Warm water decreases blood pressure by opening and relaxing the walls of blood vessels. This process is known as vasodilation. Birthing can be a stressful time, and warm water relieves some of this anxiety, which will also lower your blood pressure.
Warm water has been said to reduce stress-related hormones. When these hormones are reduced, it allows for you to produce endorphins which will serve you as pain inhibitors.
A warm water bath will cause your perineum to become more relaxed and elastic. This relaxation will reduce the incidence and severity of tearing your perineum and lessen your chances for needing an episiotomy or stitches.
During a warm water bath, you can relax more physically and well as mentally. When you can relax mentally, it will give you more ability to focus on your birthing process.
The warm water bath will provide you with a greater sense of privacy. With a sense of privacy, your inhibitions, fears, and anxieties will all be reduced.
Benefits of Water Birth for Your Baby
Not only does the mother benefit from having their child through the water birthing process, but your baby also experiences benefits:
The environment they enter through into the world in much like the amniotic sac.
Water birthing is less stressful and creates a sense of security.
Where Can I Have a Water Birth?
If you are considering a water birth, talk to your physician at All Women’s Care and discuss whether or not they can assist with this birthing process and where it can take place. They will advise on whether or not a birth pool is available on site or at another location and explain how the medical team will ensure you and your baby have a safe experience.
How Do I Know if I’m a Good Candidate for Water Birth?
The first thing to consider is if you have had a previous pregnancy and how your current pregnancy is progressing. Water birth is recommended for a less painful delivery, but there are specific criteria you need to meet before being allowed a water birth.
If you can meet these criteria, you are a good candidate for delivering your baby in a water pool:
Your pregnancy is progressing straightforward
Your delivery will occur after 37 weeks of conception
You are expecting one baby (special circumstances can apply to twins or multiple births- speak with specialists at All Women’s Care if you are carrying more one baby)
Your baby will be delivered in a head-down position
Your labor has begun on its own or is continuing after induction with prostaglandins (a suppository inserted into the mother’s vagina to cause the uterus to go into labor)
Your water has broken before labor or during the first stage of labor, and you have no other complications and clear amniotic fluid (This would indicate there is no blood and none of your baby’s poo in the fluid)
Your blood pressure reading is within a reasonable range
Your baby is healthy, and there are no signs of any fetal distress
Possible Risks to the Baby or Mother During Water Birth
Water birth has become more popular over the past thirty years, but there has been little research done to discuss the risks of the procedure. One article was written by the College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which talks about a theory concerning the risk of water embolism if the water should enter the mother’s bloodstream.
The British Medical Journal is more than ninety-five percent positive that water birth is safe; however, they still site a possible risk of water aspiration. This incident would occur if the baby experiences stress while in the birth canal, or if their umbilical cord should become twisted or kinked, then the baby could make a gasp for air and instead inhale water. This occurrence would be rare as babies don’t normally inhale until they’ve been exposed to air.
A baby doesn’t attempt to breathe on their own until the umbilical cord has been cut as it provides them the oxygen they need. The other possible risk comes from the cord snapping as the baby is brought to the surface of the water. This risk can be avoided by lifting the baby up to the mother’s chest.
When is Water Birth Not Ideal?
Some health issues may make water birth an unsafe or unwise choice. If you have herpes, this disease could transfer in the water. You would want to discuss your options with your All Women’s Care physician if you have been considering a water birth but have herpes.
Genital herpes is also called HSV (herpes simplex virus) and is a viral infection that affects millions of individuals a year. There are often no symptoms with this infection, which is why most people are not aware they have herpes. There are some cases where painful blisters develop around the genital area, which would lead one to seek medical attention.
There is no cure for genital herpes, so once you’ve contracted it, you have the infection for life. Blisters can come and go throughout your life, and this infection will make you more susceptible to HIV. If you are pregnant, this infection can spread to your baby during the pregnancy or during childbirth, which could lead to more severe health issues.
Another situation where water birth would not be an ideal choice is if your baby is breech. Water birth has been performed where the babies feet or bottom have come first, but it is risky, and you should discuss your options with your physician at All Women’s Care.
A baby born breech means their bottom or feet come out first instead of their head. There are from three to five percent of babies born in this position. When it is determined a baby will deliver breech, physicians typically schedule a cesarean section birth as it is safer than having the baby travel through the vagina in this upside down position.
Water birth is also not a good choice if you have been diagnosed with excessive bleeding or maternal infection.
Excessive or abnormal uterine bleeding is when you experience heavy bleeding during your period or if you’ve given birth and experienced massive bleeding during the pregnancy.
Maternal infection is acquired by a mother and is then able to transmit it to their baby. The transmission happens via the placenta before the baby is delivered, or while the baby is coming through the birth canal during labor and delivery. The transmission occurs when the baby is exposed to their mother’s blood.
If you are carrying more than one baby; for example, if you know that you are carrying twins or more than two babies, you should discuss the choice of having a water birth. It has been possible to deliver twins by means of water birth safely; however, it is a situation you should thoroughly discuss with your physician at All Women’s Care before deciding if this option is safe for you and your babies.
Another situation where it is not suggested you have a water birth is if your baby is pre-term, or you have gone into labor and are expected to deliver two weeks or earlier than your expected due date.
If you are experiencing severe meconium, you should not continue with water birth. Moderate or mild meconium is typical or normal during delivery. This substance will float to the surface of the water and can be removed immediately. Meconium can be washed off your baby’s face and may come out of your baby’s mouth or nose while they are still under water. If your bath water becomes stained before your baby’s birth, you can lift your pelvis out of the water to deliver and protect your baby from risk.
Meconium aspiration is a complication every parent hopes to avoid as it can be but isn’t always dangerous. Meconium aspiration occurs before, during, or after labor and delivery of a baby. It occurs when your baby inhales a mixture of amniotic fluid and meconium while still in the amniotic sac. Meconium is your baby’s first feces and is a sticky, dark green substance that is typically passed in the womb during early pregnancy and then again a few days after birth. If your baby inhales this substance, it can completely or partially block their airway.
Another health issue that can present risks during a water birth is toxemia or preeclampsia. If you have either of these conditions, you should speak with your provider at All Women’s Care before planning a water birth.
Toxemia or preeclampsia is a condition developed by women who become pregnant and is marked by high blood pressure when high blood pressure has never been an issue for them. If this condition is not treated, it can lead to a condition called, eclampsia, which is incredibly serious and puts both mother and baby at risk.
You should not consider a water birth if you have a medical condition such as epilepsy, uncontrolled diabetes, or high blood pressure.
Epilepsy can create a higher risk of dying during delivery. A study performed at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston found there were 80 deaths per 100,000 women who gave birth with epilepsy. This number is compared to only six deaths per 100,000 of women giving birth without epilepsy. While the numbers make having a child when you have epilepsy a ‘relative risk,’ it is still considered a rare occurrence. Because of this risk; however, and other delivery complications that could arise because of epilepsy, it is not recommended you use water birth.
It is also not suggested you consider a water birth if you are over-weight or do have good mobility as it will be challenging to get you out of the pool quickly should any complications occur.
If you have been swabbed positive for Group B streptococcus infection, it may still be possible for a water birth, but you should discuss this choice with your physician at All Women’s Care.
GBS (Group B streptococcus) is one of many different bacteria that live inside your body. This infection is not uncommon and can be found in one out of four women in their vagina, gut, or urinary tract. There are no symptoms with these infections, so you could carry it and not even be aware it exists. It becomes a complication during delivery of your baby as you could pass it on to your child. This infection can lead to further complications such as neonatal sepsis for your baby as it could spread throughout their entire body.
What Could Prevent My Water Birth Once I’m in Labor?
There are times your labor changes as it progresses, and what those changes become depends on individual circumstances. One of the reasons your choice for a water birth may become an issue is if you’re induced and why this was necessary. If you were induced because you are overdue, then water birth may still be a good option, if it was because your baby’s wellbeing became a concern, then water birth is not a good option.
If you’ve been induced with a hormone-like substance known as prostaglandin, then a water birth is still possible; however, if you were induced with a syntocinon drip, then it is not an option. With the syntocinon drip, your baby needs to be monitored continuously with electronic sensors making a water birth impossible.
If your previous birth was performed with a cesarean, but you want a water birth for your next child, it may still be possible. Your physician at All Women’s Care will look at the reason behind the cesarean previously performed to determine if you can use a birth pool for pain relief while you are in labor, but it may be necessary to leave the pool for the birth.
Will a Water Pool be Guaranteed for My Child’s Birth?
There cannot be a guarantee that a hospital birth pool will be open when it’s time for your child to be born. Most hospitals or clinics only have one pool, so you should check with All Women’s Care regarding their availability of pools. Another mother could be using the pool when you begin labor, or it may need to be cleaned and refilled, which can take a couple of hours.
Call as soon as your labor starts and alert All Women’s Care that you have chosen a water birth for your child. Letting them know as soon as possible may help to have the pool ready when you arrive. There may also be a wet room available or an ensuite bathroom where you can labor until the pool is open. Discuss these options with your physician at All Women’s Care during one of your prenatal visits, so you know your options ahead of time.
Where Can I Learn More About Water Birthing Options Near Me?
Call All Women's Care at 213-250-9461 to learn more about your water birthing options for your child's delivery. We offer you the highest standards of excellence in women's medical needs and can provide you the best medical advice to make wise decisions for your health and the health of your unborn child.