A Mountain Stream…
Nothing elicits relaxation quite like water: placid, peaceful water. This is also true in the realm of birth. While this stilling effect of water will appeal to some more than others, there are some sound, scientific reasons why water works for labor and birth. They are deserving of our consideration as we make decisions about which birth experience is right for us.
The relaxing effect of water birth is not merely anecdotal, it is physiological. There are two main elements of a water birth that cause greater relaxation; buoyancy and warmth. The more relaxed you can become, the more efficient your labor will be. Relaxation can change your hormones.
It is impossible to completely relax a muscle that is in use. Allowing your body weight to be supported by water (rather than by the muscular-skeletal system) conserves energy, allowing greater stores for the work of labor. Buoyancy also allows the baby to float off the main arteries and veins that supply circulation to the uterus. This allows the uterus to work more efficiently.
We use water in the form of warm compresses to care for the area of the perineum in childbirth. In water birth, relaxing the pelvic floor muscles becomes easier for some women. Relaxing in the warmth of water can also reduce anxiety (and thus blood pressure). According to the Gate Theory of Pain, any amount of pleasure reduces the sensations of pain. Warm, pleasurable water against the nerves of the skin can block pain impulses, minimizing their effect.
There is evidence that buoyancy helps the uterus contract more efficiently and improves circulation. This can decrease the length of labor, particularly in second (pushing) stage. It can also decrease the likelihood of a birth injury (such as a tear). Increased oxygenation to the baby is another result, as compared to the supine or semi-supine traditional birthing position. Lying down can actually deplete baby’s oxygen.
How I Can Help
It is important that water birth be handled correctly, as there is some anecdotal evidence of injury to the baby during the pushing stage in the absence of proper clinical understanding. Our protocols for water birth are in accordance with the highest standards of safety and care and have resulted in the safe delivery of over 400 babies in water. We started catching babies in the water in 1999. To date, our practice has never had any neonatal water birth injuries. Currently approximately 75% of our clientele either labor or deliver in water.
Tender Beginnings will link clients to a rental agency of portable birth tub rentals, making water birth accessible and sanitary at almost any location. We have made arrangements with several agencies for a discounted price. We carry a water doppler to monitor the baby’s heart beat as required and other items used to facilitate a safe birth. However, it is the responsibility of the parents-to-be to obtain the necessary equipment for a water birth, to fill the birth tub, and to empty the tub. Our staff may assist with the cleaning of the tub if time allows.
Some people like the benefits of water for labor but are unsure if they want to deliver the baby there. These clients choose to labor in water, and then deliver “on land.” We gladly accommodate these requests. Our clients have the freedom to delay choosing whether or not they will deliver in water until labor is in progress.
Listed below are several web sites from which you may get information about water birth or buying birth tubs. We supply a list of local vendors who rent tubs to our clients as well.