It is possible that some women are intimidated by the thought of delivering their babies in water. Many questions arise….How safe is it? How clean is the water? What about germs? How can the baby breathe? I don’t have a pool big enough? What if I need to go to the hospital?
Water births are a wonderful, calm and safe way to deliver your baby. Let me try to answer some of the questions that most of you probably have about water births.
The Birth Pool
Most people don’t have a suitable pool for birthing at home (a hot tub might work, but you have to make sure the temperature is set to the correct level – between 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit.). Birth Pools can be rented (I rent them!) for a reasonable cost which includes everything you need. You can order it to be delivered up to 2 weeks before your expected due date. Alternatively, if you plan to deliver at a hospital, some hospitals are equipped with birthing pools, however only midwives will deliver in the birth tub at the hospital. Obstetricians do not deliver babies in the water.
Who can have a water birth?
Any woman who wants to enjoy the pleasure of a water birth should consider it. There are only a few situations where water birth is not recommended. They include:
- If your baby is breech
- If you are delivering multiples
- If you have toxemia or preeclampsia
- If you have herpes (which transfers easily in water)
- If your baby is pre-term (more than 2 weeks prior to your due date)
- If you have an infection or excessive bleeding.[break]
Essentially, women with a healthy pregnancy free of complications should have no concerns choosing a water birth.
What are the benefits of water birth?
Women express many different benefits they have experienced through a water birth. Some of these include:
- The soothing, relaxing comfort they feel from the warm water
- The benefit of the buoyancy that the water provides thereby lightening the mother’s body weight and allowing much more freedom of movement. Women enjoy the feeling of weightlessness in the water.
- Fewer tears since the water causes the perineum to become more relaxed and elastic reducing tearing and the need for medical intervention such as episiotomy
- Water birth may reduce the length of time for the first stage of labour.
- Water birth may reduce the need for anesthesia and other pain medications
- Pregnant women with physical disabilities and/or reduced mobility find using a birthing pools to be very helpful during labour
What are the Risks?
If, during a water delivery, the fetus experiences stress in the birth canal or if the umbilical cord becomes knotted or twisted, the baby may try to gasp for air and possibly inhale water. This would be a rare occurrence because babies do not normally inhale until they are exposed to air. They continue to receive oxygen through the umbilical cord until they start to breathe on their own or until the cord is cut.
For this reason, some women choose to labour in the birth pool and get out of the pool for delivery. This is just an extra precaution if you are concerned about the risks associated with a water birth. If you deliver in the water, the midwife will gently lift the baby and take them out of the water before they take their first breath.
Things to consider for a Water Birth
- Choose a certified midwife and doula who is trained in water births to attend the birth.
- Make sure that the birth pool water temperature is set to no more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Hospital birthing pools are usually designed to stay at the perfect temperature. Also make sure that the pool and the water in the pool are clean. Only fill your pool at home when you begin labour.
- Drink plenty of water during the delivery to prevent dehydration.
- Be sure to have a plan in place in case there are complications. Make sure your delivery team is aware of the plan.
- If there is any concern about your safety or the health of your baby, get out of the birthing pool.
- The baby may have his first bowel movement (meconium) while in the womb. This happens in some deliveries. Special care needs to be taken to prevent the baby from inhaling or ingesting any of the meconium in the water. Discuss this with your delivery team ahead of time.
- Check with your private insurance company for coverage. Some insurance companies will cover the cost of renting a birthing pool.