Why I Love Water Birth!
I'm a big fan of using water a tool during labour and birth. My own baby was born in water, and the sensations of getting in to the pool for the first time when in labour will probably stay with me forever - it was heavenly! But why do so many people love it?
Birthing in water can provide a calm, warm and private environment for labouring people. Evidence has shown that labouring and giving birth in water reduces pain sensations and can provide a calmer entrance into the world for baby. The warmth of the water helps to relax muscles and helps to reduce certain chemicals known to induce stress, anxiety and fear. The water offers a multi-surface touch, a sensation that confuses the receptor sites on our skin, as our brain can only decode so many sensations at once, which aids to reducing the perception of pain. When floating in water, the strong effects of gravity are reduced and we can experiences a feeling of weightlessness, which in turn facilitates a birther in changing positions easily with minimal disruption or effort.
Benefits of birthing in water:
Provides natural pain relief
Can help labour progress quicker
Reduces risk of intervention
Reduces chances of tearing
Promotes Relaxation (reduced stress related hormones)
Promotes easier movement
Dr Sara Wickham writes the following in her article 'More Benefit of water for birth' - The results of two recent research studies have added to our knowledge about the benefits of water for birth.
The first, a Swedish comparative study by Ulfsdottir et al (2017), found that women giving birth in water had a lower risk of second-degree perineal tears, shorter labours and significantly less interventions (including artificial rupture of membranes, internal CTG and augmentation with synthetic oxytocin). There were no differences in Apgar scores or admissions to neonatal intensive care unit and the women reported a more positive birth experience. Three of the babies in the waterbirth group were noted to have cord avulsion and, while none of them were admitted to special care or suffered any complications as a result, the study authors remind midwives to watch out for this problem, which can easily be solved by clamping the cord.
The second study is The Waterbirth Project: São Bernardo Hospital experience (Camargo et al 2018). This quantitative observational study analysed the maternal and neonatal outcomes of 90 pregnant women who gave birth in water at São Bernardo Hospital in Portugal. In this study, being in water also reduced the time that the women were in labour. Nearly a third of the women did not have vaginal examination and 57.8% either had no tears or just a first degree tear. The authors noted that the babies’ Apgar and Aqua Apgar (a specially modified Apgar score designed to be used for waterbirth) scores were excellent.
As Camargo et al (2018) conclude, “These safety outcomes, based on sound scientific evidence, should increasingly support and inform clinical decisions and increase the number of waterbirths in health facilities. The results of this study align with growing evidence that suggests waterbirth is a safe delivery option and therefore should be offered to women.”
In Cornwall we are so lucky to have 3 wonderful birth centres with the option of water. Penrice, Helston and Truro birth centres all have birth pools available, and remember you are guaranteed water at home if you invest in or hire a birth pool. Talk to your midwife about water birth options, water should be available to everyone and is a valid form of pain relief (thanks, NICE Guidelines!) Things like VBAC, high BMI and gestational age should not affect your right to birth your baby in water. If you want to learn more about your options, I cover water birth and birth centre on my full antenatal Hypnobirthing course. The next one is in January (16th and 23rd in Newquay) and is available to book via my website. I also have 2 spaces available for private Hypnobirthing throughout December. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a free consultation or to book.