Benefits of 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