Using Water For Labour and Birth
Using water as a comfort measure during birth is something I would encourage all women to consider including in their Birth Preferences.
Water is a safe and effective form of pain relief for healthy, low risk women – let’s explore all of the reasons why…
Mind Body Connection
In Hypnobirthing we talk a lot about the mind-body connection. We know that our emotions can manifest physical sensations in our bodies. The reverse occurs too. Physical sensations can evoke corresponding emotions!
When you think of warmth – what do you think of? We think of feeling COMFORTED, REASSURED, SAFE and RELAXED. These are basic and crucial needs of all labouring women.
The warmth delivered through water relieves tension, helping you to relax and completely rest in between contractions. In turn, this helps to conserve your energy which allows the birthing muscles to do their thing. This keeps your Parasympathetic Nervous system engaged so that your amazing birth hormones can be as efficient as possible!
Warm water has the added benefit of softening the vaginal and perineal tissues making it easier for this area to stretch and accommodate your baby’s body as he/she is born – likely reducing perineal damage and tears.
Using a Shower
I’m sure I’m not the only one who loves a long hot shower after a hard day. Showers can be a great tool to use for pain relief in labour. The pressure of the water and the heat over your body feels amazing.
Many hospital shower heads are detachable, which makes it easy for your birth partner to aim the water wherever it feels best for you (some women like it for their lower back, some also like the water on their belly).
Tip – take some towels into the shower so you can kneel comfortably and if your shower is big enough you could take in your fit ball to either sit on or use to lean into whilst on all fours (a great labouring position!)
Having a Bath
Immersion in warm water can provide much more than just pain relief. The birthing pool or bath provides a barrier between you and your surroundings and is like having your own private space. Being free to move freely and easily as your body instinctively wants to, is so beneficial.
When we are warm, and our muscles are relaxed, our range of motion is increased. This makes it much easier to get into good birthing positions like squatting and kneeling. The added bonus of being weightless makes it much easier to maintain and change positions during labour. Birthing pools will also often have an inflatable cushioned base and sides making it much gentler on your joints when kneeling/squatting.
Water provides support and buoyancy (and what pregnant woman doesn’t want to feel a little more weightless?!) and can also help to keep any stress hormones at bay. This increases the body’s production of our own natural pain relievers – our amazing Endorphins (which totally deserve their own blog post!).
Benefits for your Birth
Now you know why and how warm water is beneficial for labour and birth, it’s easy to understand why there is growing evidence reporting the following potential benefits:
Less pain + greater satisfaction with the birth experience
Less medication use for pain relief
Less use of artificial oxytocin and possibly shorter labours
Higher rates of normal vaginal birth
Lower rates of episiotomy
Higher rates of intact perineum and possibly lower rates of severe tears
Possibly lower rates of postpartum haemorrhage
Benefits for your Baby
Can you think of a more gentle way to be born than being born into warm water? Water which is kept at body temperature - similar to the temperature of the fluid that baby has been floating around in for 9 months makes it an easier/gentler transition to life outside the womb.
Babies born in water are often so peaceful when they are born – and some hardly cry! They avoid the cold harsh air, the often unnecessary drying and rubbing and are often birthed straight into their Mother’s arms – safe and warm!
What do Women Say?
The science is wonderful, but what about real life. The proof is in the pudding! Ask women who have given birth in water what they think. Many women who’ve had water births themselves would give birth in water again – some (like myself) couldn’t imagine doing birth any other way!
Having personally experienced one birth on a Hospital bed and two waterbirths – I can say hands down which one I would prefer…WATER BIRTH!
Timing is Everything!
Something to keep in mind with the use of water in labour, which we also discuss in our Hypnobirthing classes is timing, this is because if you get into the water during early labour, it can potentially slow down your surges. Sometimes this can be a good test to know whether you are in good strong labour – if your body isn't quite ready, your surges may slow down or completely stop.
Is Water Birthing An Option For You?
While most hospitals and birthing centres offer water immersion (use of a bath for labour) they don’t all provide water birth facilities. When deciding on your care provider, make sure to check if they offer water birth if this is an option you would like to have available to you.
Generally both Midwives and Doctors agree that water births are suitable only for women:
Who are considered to have a healthy low-risk pregnancy
Who have reached 37 weeks
Who are having only one baby and the baby is in a head down position
Currently in Perth waterbirth is an option at the Family Birth Centres (KEMH and Fiona Stanley Hospital) and Armadale Hospital, and of course it is an option if you want to birth at home with the CMP or a Private Midwife. Birth pools are available to hire or buy online. Unfortunately, no Private Hospitals in Perth offer water birth as an option.
Got questions? Want to know more?
If you are after more information or want to discuss the benefits of water birthing, I am always happy to chat. Message me through my website or Instagram!