Water birth is becoming an increasing option for women in childbirth. Once water birth was relegated to only home birth settings, now many hospitals and birth centers are providing on site water birth tubs for use in labor and childbirth. (Though it should be noted that every facility has a different set of rules as to who can use the water birth tubs and how long.) Many women have sought out childbirth in the water for a variety of reasons, including:
- Less Pain.
Water birth has been shown to be very effective at reducing pain. Some studies say that water birth is second to only the epidural in pain relief. Mothers who have given birth in the water swear by the reduction in pain.
- Fewer Tears.
Because of the ability to relax and to have a gentle second stage, pushing, most mothers who have a water birth have fewer tears and require fewer stitches than their counterparts who give birth outside of a tub.
- Increased relaxation.
Water has long been known for its relaxing properties. After all, don't we often suggest a warm bath when someone says they are stressed? Calgon, anyone? Seriously, the warm water does the same thing in labor and childbirth, though often with a more dramatic effect. Relaxation is a great thing in childbirth.
- Increased mobility for mom.
When in water mom finds it easier to move because of the water. Her larger form is less encumbered. This movement can help speed labor or make for more effective contractions in some women. She is able to move her legs, squat, circle her hips - all of which can help her feel less pain and help her baby move down in the pelvis.
- Decrease in the use of epidural anesthesia.
If you are looking to avoid an epidural, water birth is something that has been shown to decrease the need for pain medications.
I've personally attended over fifty births where water was used. The vast majority of women chose to give birth in the water. I've never had a mom who gave birth in water say she'd do it anywhere else again. With my second child, I used water up until the last few minutes, and after a long labor he was born in the few minutes I'd chosen to be out of the tub. I never really considered water birth, despite what I'd seen. And then, with our eighth baby, I saw my bath tub and I knew that's where I was going. She was born quickly and easily. Despite being my largest baby, by over a pound, and having her hand by her head when she was born, I had no tears and felt better physically than I ever had before. If water birth is an option for you, I'd highly recommend that you look into this option. Though, there may be limits to who can and who can't use the water birth tub at your location.
Cluett ER, Burns E. Immersion in water in labour and birth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD000111. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000111.pub3
Gentle Birth Choices Harper, Barbara, R.N., Ch. 6