Reasons to Give Birth in Water

Childbirth in the Water

Mom and newborn after water birth
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What Is Water Birth?

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.) Essentially, water birth involved sitting in a warm tub during at least a portion of the labor process; in some cases, it is possible to actually give birth in the water.

Why Would Women Choose a Water Birth?

Many women have sought out childbirth in the water for a variety of reasons, including:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  1. 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.(If you are at risk of needing a C-section, however, being in a water bath can slow the time it takes to get you to surgery).

  1. Decrease in the use of epidural anesthesiaIf you are looking to avoid an epidural, water birth is something that has been shown to decrease the need for pain medications.

Sources:

Cluett ER, Burns E. Immersion in water in labor and birth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD000111. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000111.pub3

Geissbuhler, V., Eberhard, J., (2000) Waterbirths: A comparative study, a prospective study on more than 2000 water births. Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy Sept-Oct; 15(5):291-300

Gentle Birth Choices Harper, Barbara, R.N., Ch. 6

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