Water Birth

What to Expect if You Want a Water Birth

 A birth tub at Health Foundations Birth Center in St. Paul.

A birth tub at Health Foundations Birth Center in St. Paul.

Maybe you’ve been wondering about choosing a water birth or perhaps it’s an option you may not have considered before. Either way, we’ve got the answers to your questions about water birth.

What is a water birth like?

Most of the experience is up to you. Generally it is good to wait to get into the birth tub until you are 5cm dilated or greater or you have a good active labor pattern established.  Once in the birth tub, you can change positions to see what works for you (ie. squatting, floating), or get out for a while and walk around. You may like to have your birth partner join you in the or support you from outside the birth tub.

Some women choose to give birth in the water, while others labor in the tub but get out to actually give birth – babies don’t start breathing until they feel air on their face, being delivered into the water won’t harm them.

You will probably be advised to leave the tub to deliver the placenta – this is because some women feel faint during this final stage and this can become tricky if you remain in the water.

You will have a midwife on hand who will make sure the water stay around 100 degrees, check the progress of your labor and monitor you and your baby’s vital signs throughout.

Is it safe?

Both the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynacologists endorse the use of birth tubs for women without complicated pregnancies.

There is no reason why you should not opt for a water birth if you are:

a) healthy

b) 37 or more weeks pregnant

c) a ‘low-risk’ pregnancy

Your provider will be able to advise you whether a water birth is a suitable option for you.

Does it relieve pain?

There is evidence that women who have a water birth are less likely to need an epidural, and many women report feeling calmer, lighter, more easy to move and more at ease giving birth in the water.

Lying in warm water relaxes muscles and calms breathing, which can give the impression of pain relief without necessarily having a genuine effect.  However, just the perception of pain relief can make all the difference in the heat of the moment!

Are there things that are required if I want to be in the birth pool?

Health Foundations Birth Center requires specific lab tests to be done in pregnancy for woman who think they may want to labor or deliver in water.  The midwives will also discuss the risks of benefits of water birth and have you sign an informed consent. 

What if something goes wrong?

One thing to be aware of while planning your water birth is that when the time comes, all those plans might go out the window!

If your midwife has any concerns about you or your baby during a water birth, she may ask you to leave the pool. 

Dispelling the Top Myths About Water Birth

Health Foundations Birth Center Water Birth

With water births becoming an increasingly popular natural birthing option, there are of course many misconceptions about the practice out there. From concerns about infection, to worries about the baby drowning or inhaling water, there are plenty of scary myths about water births that aren’t necessarily true. Here are the top 7 myths we hear about water births and why you shouldn’t worry!

Top 7 Myths of Water Birth

  1. You have to be naked to have a water birth: If modesty is a concern for you and you don’t want to feel overly exposed during birth, fear not, there are no rules stating that one must be naked during a water birth. You are free to wear whatever top you feel comfortable in, be it a t-shirt, sports bra or tankini top. What’s most important is that you are comfortable and are able to more freely throughout your labor and delivery. 
  2. Your baby will be more likely to get an infection if born into water: The risk for infection is one of the most commonly cited fears about water birth. The reality is that the rate of infant infection reported in water births is less than .01 percent. Although many women do pass a stool while pushing their baby out some experts believe that the water perhaps might even provide a partial barrier to infection by diluting any bacteria making it less likely to cause harm to the baby. 
  3. Your baby will overheat if you have a water birth: The maximum temperature recommended for a water birth is 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Your baby is not at risk of overheating at this temperature and will be born into a comfortable and womb-like environment in the water. You can also choose to have the temperature cooler if that is more comfortable for you. The water temperature and your temperature will be checked routinely throughout labor and delivery to ensure that you are not overheating and your midwife will also help ensure that you stay adequately hydrated throughout the process.
  4. Having a water birth will cause more vaginal tearing: On the contrary, water births actually have lower rates of perineal trauma and vaginal tearing than non-water births due to the added elasticity because of the water. Water immersion has also been shown to help relax the pelvic floor which ultimately aids in the descent and pushing out of baby.
  5. You can’t get out of the tub if you decide to have a water birth: Water immersion can be utilized during your birth experience for any part, the entirety, or on and off throughout your birth experience. There’s no rule that says that once you are in the water you need to stay in. Should your body tell you that you need to get out and move around or you’ve decided you’d be more comfortable birthing outside of the tub, you absolutely have that flexibility to make changes as you see fit. 
  6. Your baby might drown if born into the water: Another common concern shared about delivering in water is whether or not there is risk of baby drowning. However, when your baby is born he is actually still receiving his oxygen supply from the placenta. Once he emerges from the vaginal canal he will be immediately lifted out of the water which will then signal his body to shift over to breathing through his lungs and increase blood flow to that area.  
  7. You have to be young to have a water birth: There is no age cut off for when a woman is no longer able to have a water birth. Instead, your midwife or doctor will assess your health and the health of your baby and help you make an informed decision based on those factors. Factors that may prevent you from having a water birth include maternal infection, a breech baby, excessive bleeding or other complications that may make a water birth unsafe for you or your baby. 

If you are interested in possibly having a water birth but have concerns about the process, contact Health Foundations to speak with a midwife who will be happy to alleviate your worries, address your concerns, and answer all of your questions . We are happy to offer free consultations and tours of our Birth Center, including viewing our homelike birthing suites with new built-in birthing tubs. We would love to be part of your birthing experience and help you decide if water birth is for you!

Top 10 Benefits of Water Birth

Water Birth Couple

Photo Credit: Swaddle Shots Photography

The use of water immersion during labor and birth has become an increasingly popular option in the natural birth community due to the many benefits to both mom and baby. For baby, being born into water closely replicates the womb environment creating a gentle birth setting. And for mom, laboring and birthing in water has many benefits ranging from its soothing nature and pain relief to easily being able to reposition your body to follow its natural inclinations throughout labor.

At Health Foundations Birth Center, we frequently have women who desire a water birth. Our midwives are highly experienced in supporting women who wish to labor and/or give birth in water and both of our birthing suites are equipped with large built-in tubs that are available to you throughout your experience. Here are the top 10 benefits of having a water birth:

  1. Warm water during labor and delivery has been found to greatly reduce discomfort and increase relaxation for mom. The soothing nature of water helps mom to not only feel weightless but to experience the calming effects of hydrotherapy.
  2. Because mom is better able to relax during labor, less stress hormones are released and the body is able to produce more endorphins which have pain reducing effects. 
  3. The buoyancy experienced in a water birth allows mom to move about freely and follow her body’s natural urges. This consequently can help the pelvis open and the baby descend into the birth canal more easily. 
  4. Water immersion has been shown to lower blood pressure caused by anxiety. Because less stress hormones are released due to the calming nature of the water, many women report they are not only able to relax more physically but mentally as well. 
  5. Another benefit of the buoyancy effect of water is that it has been shown to improve blood circulation leading to more efficient uterine contractions and ultimately a shorter labor duration. 
  6. Improved blood circulation also creates better oxygenation of the uterine muscles and more oxygen for baby during labor. Improved oxygenation of the uterine muscles is also associated with decreased pain for mom. 
  7. Water creates more elasticity to the perineum typically resulting in a lower incidence of perineal trauma and the need for stitches or an episiotomy. Water has also been shown to aid in relaxing the pelvic floor which is beneficial when it is time to push.
  8. Women who birth in water report feeling more in control of their bodies, the progression of labor and the birth of their baby. Because they are able to conserve energy due to increased relaxation, they often feel more clear-minded and strong when it comes time to push the baby out. 
  9. Water births have been shown to reduce the likelihood of needing unplanned interventions, anesthesia, pain medications, and C-sections.
  10. In addition to the many amazing benefits a water birth provides for mom, perhaps one of the greatest benefits is the stress-free, calming and gentle welcome it provides for baby. Birthing in a warm water tub offers an environment that is similar to the womb where baby has snugly lived for nine months.

We are thrilled to be able to offer the option of water birth at Health Foundations and invite you to contact us for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center to learn more. The remarkable physiological and psychological benefits hydrotherapy provides to mom and baby make water birth a truly special birthing option for you and your family.

Photo Credit: Raven Ivory

Harlow Kristianna's Birth Story - "The Day You Were Born"

 Introducing Baby Harlow Kristianna

Introducing Baby Harlow Kristianna

It was like any other Thursday night. We were still a week away from our due date and I was positive you were going to arrive fashionably late... just like your mama! Your daddy was out of state for a work meeting in Iowa as I had no contractions (even Braxton Hicks) by this time and we were positive your debut was still at least a week out. 

I was itching to put the final touches on your nursery and there was one special item (an elephant mobile) that I had been pining after for weeks but had to go to Woodbury to pick it up in the store. I decided that tonight was the night to complete your “nest.” I packed Scout (our wiener dog) into the car and we made a girls’ road trip over to Buy Buy Baby in Woodbury. On the way there, your BG (Daddy’s mom) called me to check and see how I was doing since Daddy was out of town. She seemed quite concerned that I was out driving by myself “all the way to Woodbury.” I explained that I felt fine and that it was only Woodbury, not Albert Lea or Duluth and that she needn’t worry. She made me promise to text her when Scout and I were safe at home.

I found the mobile within a few minutes of the store closing and got back in the car to head home to Edina. Then your Papa Joe called me (Mama’s dad) and also was curious to know if I had felt any “stirrings” of Tiny T (what we called you since we didn’t know if you were a boy or girl). Again, I tried to assure him that I was positive you would be coming AFTER your due date and that with your Daddy out of town, I was sure it wouldn’t be happening in the next 24 hours. Little did I know what the next 24 hours would hold...

I returned home and decided that I would put the mobile up myself and take that final nursery picture to post on Facebook, indicating to the world, but mostly myself, that we were officially “ready” for you to arrive! I talked with your Daddy on the phone for a few minutes before bed and went to sleep.

Then it happened. At about 12:15 a.m., I felt my first contraction. It was no “fake” contraction or false labor, either. I had never felt a contraction before and it wasn’t painful or even uncomfortable at this time... just “present.” I KNEW this was the beginning of your journey into the world and our lives. I tried to get back to sleep, as this is what everyone had advised me to do when I felt like labor was beginning. And I did sleep. Until about 1 am, when the next contraction came.

I decided to get up and go to the bathroom and then call your Daddy. I woke him between 1:30 and 2 a.m. and told him that labor had started, but that I was fine and wasn’t feeling like things were progressing at a rate where he needed to be alarmed or even change his plans. He was planning to be home by 4:00 p.m. later that day (Friday) anyway. I had heard that many first-time moms have long labors, and I was preparing myself for a long labor, possibly even several days. Again, I went back to sleep.

Again, I awoke to another contraction, this time around 2:25 a.m. Could it be that the contractions were picking up speed? I decided to stay awake and just time/monitor the gaps between contractions to be more certain. As it turned out, contractions had indeed picked up in pace and were between 20-25 minutes apart. I tried my best to remain calm and decided to call your Daddy again just to give him an update. When we spoke, he seemed a bit more concerned and urged me to at least call the midwife pager and alert them of my status. He wanted me to call him back after I had spoken to a midwife, so I agreed to do that. It must’ve been about 4 in the morning when I received a call back from the midwife, Katrina, who asked me some questions about how I was feeling, the contraction rate and intensity, and also about your Daddy’s ETA. I remember her saying, “Well, if it were me and my husband were that far away, I would call him and tell him to start heading home right away. He probably won’t be able to eat, sleep or even focus on work much if he knows his wife is in labor!” She also encouraged me to call back should things change or pick up in pace in the next few hours. 

I called your Daddy (again!) and told him that he should probably cancel his meetings and start heading back to Minnesota, since he had about a 6 hour drive ahead of him. Contractions were now between 15-20 minutes apart. He urged me to call Amber, our doula, to see if she could come to our house and be with me until he could get home. He said he would get on the road as soon as he could. I needed to get up and take Scout outside for her morning potty break.

We ventured down the nine flights in our building’s elevator and slowly made our way to the back door. We walked around in the grass patch for a few minutes and she took care of her business. We headed back inside because after morning outings, always comes breakfast! When we got back in the apartment, I fed her and as I bent over to put the food in her bowl, I noticed that the contractions were now coming more quickly. I timed the gaps between them for a few minutes and I was now at 5-6 minutes apart! This couldn’t be happening... your Daddy was still hours away!

I called him to get an update on when he’d left and informed him that things had really sped up (I think because of the activity of taking Scout out). At this point, I wouldn’t say that I was in a panic; but I was definitely pretty anxious about the possibility that you could arrive and your father might miss your birth! I asked him if we could pray together over the phone as I just didn’t know what else to do. We asked God for peace in labor and that, if it was His will, things could slow down until your Daddy got home. I felt a sense of relief after the prayer in that we’d placed the situation in God’s hands. I also told your Daddy that Amber was on her way and at least I’d have someone (someone very knowledgeable and encouraging) by my side until he got back. 

Amber arrived shortly after my conversation with Daddy and I updated her on where things were at. I had started writing down the times of my contractions on a piece of scratch paper so we could look for patterns and truly capture how long I’d been in labor. She took over charting the times and also provided me with some comfort during my contractions by applying pressure to my lower back, which was where I was starting to feel most of my labor pains. We reviewed the gaps between contractions and I was slowing down... 12-14 minutes between them again! God had heard and answered our prayer! I feel quite sure that He also orchestrated us contracting Amber as a doula (another story for another time) so that she could be there for me/us during these crucial moments of labor. She did a fantastic job of distracting me, chatting with me and alleviating any remaining traces of anxiety I had about your Daddy still not being home.

Amber helped me with water and snacks throughout the next several hours, making sure I kept my fluids and energy levels up. With each contraction getting stronger and more intense, she helped me find positions and comfort measures to endure each “wave.” We labored on the floor/hands-and-knees, on the couch/on my side, and on the yoga ball. I continued to struggle with the back labor and felt that being on my hands and knees in a modified downward dog position provided the most relief. 

Finally, at about 2:45, your Daddy walked through the door! I can honestly say, next to the day he showed up for our wedding, that was probably the happiest I’ve ever been to see him!!! We all decided to eat a good hearty lunch together in the event that things should speed up again. And that’s exactly what happened. In just the few short minutes following your Daddy’s arrival, the contractions began to pick up in pace and intensity again. (It’s pretty amazing to reflect on the mind/body connection and how I witnessed this in real time during your birth!) We were back down to about 6 minutes again and after that point, I have to admit, things got a little blurry for me. I remember eating some of my salad and burrito. I also recall Amber suggesting that maybe I should move to the bathtub for some extra relief for my back pain. A bath was drawn and I remember there being candles and very dim lighting, which was very calming. I don’t really know how long I was in the tub for, but Amber sat right beside me coaching and praising me through each contraction. I also remember asking if we could bring the ball into the tub and just turn on the shower and let the stream of water beat down on my lower back as I hugged the ball. My request was granted and I got through the next however many contractions in this manor. 

Other than that, I can reflect on the experience of going very deeply into myself and blocking out much of whatever else was happening around me. I do know I was repeating the lyrics of U2’s “Every Breaking Wave” over and over in my mind, both as a focus point AND as a distraction. I was moaning and breathing very deeply with each contraction and I also found myself calling on God’s strength and the strength of my own mother (your Grandma Kristie), who passed away several years before you were born. I know she was present there with me the entire time, cheering me on and nudging me closer to meeting YOU! At some point, Amber told me I should get out of the tub and try to go to the bathroom. I was able to get out of the tub and do this, and I’m not sure, but she felt that this was when my water broke as she heard a big “sploosh” after I had gone. I also know that this was when I started to push little pushes, even though I hadn’t been told to do so. I just felt that that’s what my body wanted me to do. I can vaguely remember speaking with Rachel, the midwife on-call, but I don’t really recall the details of our conversation. After this, Daddy and Amber made it pretty clear that we needed to get to the birth center as soon as we could. I was still in a robe after my bath, with hair wet and no clothes on. As they struggled to help me get dressed between contractions, which now must’ve been coming between 2-3 minutes apart, we packed up the rest of our birth supplies and made our way down the hallway to the elevator.

The walk to the elevator to the underground garage seemed like the longest trek of my life and we had to have been stopping every ten-fifteen feet or so for me to lean against the wall in an effort to get through the next contraction. We finally made it to the car and I remember dreading getting in as I knew the ride over there was not going to be an easy one. We were on our way in a matter of minutes, with Amber following us in her car. 

Again, I was drawn inward and for most of the ride to the birth center, all I could do was focus on the digital clock in our dashboard and remind myself that each contraction was only one minute, 60 seconds of discomfort, but 60 seconds closer to seeing your face. Each pothole, each bump on the road or brick-paved street in historic St. Paul felt like a knife being twisted in my lower back. I hoped that when I arrived at the birth center, I could ask for those sterile water injections the midwives had talked about in our prenatal appointments. I was desperate for some relief. I should also add that I was continuing to push at the conclusion of each contraction at this point... it just felt like the right thing to 

When we arrived at the birth center and made our way inside to the birthing suite, the large birth tub/bath had already been drawn, and there was dim lighting and some LED candles burning... I think. I remember marching into the room and asking Rachel, “Ok, what now? Just tell me what to do- I need a plan.” I inquired about the water injections and some comfort for the back labor, to which she replied, “Let’s get you on the bed and see how far you’re dilated and we’ll go from there.”

That’s all I needed to hear, as I quickly made my way to the bed as if to say, “Ok-
let’s DO this!” She examined my cervix and stated, “Mara, the quickest solution to eliminating your back pain is just to have your baby. You are fully dilated to a 10 [cm], so let’s just get you in the tub!” That was probably the fastest I’d moved the whole labor, practically tearing off my clothes to get into the water. 

The back pain was so intense at this point, but it did serve as my motivation to push and ride the wave of each contraction. My whole birthing team (Rachel, Brittany the RN, Amber and Daddy) was so supportive and encouraging. I can still hear their voices: “Mara, you’re SO strong! You can do this! You’re almost there!” Rachel did a great job of telling me when to push and when to rest/slow down; Amber was reminding me to “bear down” and with each push, my low moans and breathing got louder and louder. I was switching positions too, from hands and knees to reclining back. Rachel would use her mirror and flashlight in the water to check the progress and also checking your heart rate from time to time.

At some point, I moved into the recline position and knew I would stay there until you came out. It wasn’t very many more contractions and pushes before you crowned and your little head was ready to pop out. We were so close to meeting you!! I pushed through another couple of contractions and the strongest burning sensation I’d ever felt down there (now I know why they call it the Ring of Fire!). Finally, your head came out and Rachel said I probably only needed to push once or twice more before your shoulders and the rest of you emerged. Those last few pushes and contractions were a blur, as I was so focused on finally meeting our son or daughter! 

Your Daddy helped to catch you underwater when you were fully born at 8:26 p.m. on Friday, March 4th. Daddy and Rachel placed you on my chest and I immediately started crying tears of joy when I looked into your bright eyes. I felt the warmth of your body against my heart and I knew I was instantly addicted to you. I had loved you all along, before you were conceived and during pregnancy, but now seeing you, my love for you had grown deeper and our connection had become stronger. You were so calm when you came out, not even crying as you took your first few breaths of this new world around you. We still didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl, until Rachel suggested I hold you up to get a glimpse. I lifted you off my chest and had to move your umbilical cord out of the way before we could see that you were our little girl, our angelic Harlow Kristianna, named after your Grandma Kristie Ann. It was such a joy to finally meet you!

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