Why Should I Choose Water Birth? What are the Advantages?
The use of water for women in labour has been known to help relieve discomfort and has been practised in the West for decades, many from cultures across the globe have enjoyed it soothing benefits.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSsaJ0Zno9s
The water birth pioneer in the West was Dr Michel Odent, his work followed on from age old global practices:
- Finnish women laboured in steaming sauna’s
- Japanese women in remote fishing villages gave birth in the sea
- Guatemalan midwives gave women relaxing steam bath massages
- African women squat over hot steaming rocks to soften the perineum
- In New Guinea women often gave birth by the river
However in the West it has only become popular to give birth in especially designed pools since the early 80’s, before this women immersed themselves in water in baths for just short periods during early labour. Those who advocated water birth argue that:
It can help to relieve pain. Pain is a subjective sensation and many factors will account for the differences in pain perception, however it is widely accepted that if a Mother feels safe, supported and in control it will reduce the psychological impact of pain. In addition the Gate Control Theory of pain (Melzac and Wall 1988) suggests that stimulus on the superficial nerve endings in the skin can override the sensation of pain being transmitted by deeper nerves. Therefore warm water on the lower back, the area that receives the messages from the lower abdominal region, can reduce labour pain.
Several pieces of research in the 90’s show that labouring women using a birthing pool needed lass pain relief than those not using one.
Janet Balaskas, water and active birth pioneer was quoted in Practical Parenting [UK] ‘’Water does not take all the pain away but what it does is allow the woman to relax. The buoyancy, warmth and sensuality of being in the water helps women to tune into their instinctive conscious and allow birth to happen.
Water aids buoyancy. By carrying the weight of the Mother it affords her greater ease of movement and comfort, this can lead to more spontaneous movements that help the baby to descend. Even women who cannot squat on land find that they can do so in a pool, bringing the added benefit that this position creates a lot more space in the pelvis for baby to move.
Birth pools give a woman a greater sense of privacy and they can feel more in charge ‘‘ A water pool offers a Mother an environment where she can behave instinctively and feel in control. When a woman feels in control during childbirth, she experiences a higher degree of emotional well-being post-natally. (Green et al)
The water is a sensual element that has a powerful relaxing effect, some Mum’s describe it as feeling free, spaced out,’ yet they also feel more in control.
The gentle transition from the birth canal to water enables the newborn’s to adjust to their new environment at their pace, when listening to Mothers and Midwives talking of some water births we constantly heard very moving stories.
Spending time in a birth pool softens the perineum and there is a slightly reduced risk of tearing or needing an episiotomy.
When you first enter the water, it can boost oxytocin, which drives the contractions.
Lowers blood pressure almost immediately so can calm you down.
Sheila Kitzinger and Ethel Burns in Midwifery Guidelines For Use Of Water in Labour 2000; say ‘’Water immersion during labour/birth may be beneficial for women with certain risk factors, e.g uterine scar and those with pregnancy induced hypertension (Cefalo et al 1978, Weston et al1987, Brown 1998)
Many hospitals had a knee jerk reaction to the safety aspect of the use of water for labour and birth so it was placed under huge scrutiny. The scientific findings are favourable in that studies show there is no additional negative outcomes for low risk Mothers giving birth either in or out of water. (The Good Hope Hospital NHS Trust )
We have many of our Mother’s opt for Water Births at home, in hospitals or birthing units. The techniques that you will become adept at by using Hypno Birthing can be used whatever your birthing circumstances.
If you do want to use a birthing pool, do talk to your Midwife about the process and find out the units or her protocol for Water Births. Ask how many they have a year, this should give you an idea as to how willing the staff are to use water for labour and birth. If they are not forthcoming, write to the Director of Midwifery services [UK]. If the response is still unsatisfactory then ask to be recommended to a hospital that fully supports water births.
If you are a low risk Mum how about hiring your own pool and have a home birth?
Most hospitals will allow you to bring in your own pool, but check first.Read up about it too.
One of the most important things is not to get in too early, or if you do, get out for while move around and then go back in. The reason for this is that prolonged immersion may decrease the flow of oxytocin. Latest findings from Dr Michel Odent suggest that there is a correlation between the findings of physiologists on the effects of water immersion on hormone secretion and the observations of midwives that labours tend to be longer if a woman enters the pool and stays there before 5 cm dilation. He suggests that immediately after entering the pool there is a surge of oxytocin which stimulates contractions and promotes dilation. However this effect is short lived and after about 11/2 2 hours it begins to slow down.
Your midwife will be monitoring things such as the:
- Pool temperature, which may vary from 32 c – 37c.
- Water depth, and how far you are immersed.
- Pool Cleanliness.
- Length of time in pool.
There are many good books and web sites about Water Birth, names and titles to research are:
- Dr Michele Odent
- Yehudi Gordon The Active Birth Centre UK ‘The Concise Guide To Using Water During Pregnancy and Birth and infancy.’
- Janet Balaskas and Amy Hardy Motherstuff
- Susan Napierala ‘Water Birth.’ A Midwife’s Perspective
If you are having a home birth you will need to hire a birthing pool, you can source this from parenting magazines, your hospital unit/doctors