Over the last few years the popularity of the use of water in labour continues to grow with more than 75% of UK hospitals now offer a birthing pool for labour and delivery in low risk women. Frombumps2babies are taking a look at the benefits and concerns surrounding water birth and have been speaking to one of our clients Maria Chauhan who gave birth to her son Finn in water and is planning to have her second baby in the water too.
The benefits of water
The relaxing effect of water, with its support and warmth, can help you through your labour. Being bathed in water is likely to help you to cope with your contractions and (Cluett and Burns 2009) being relaxed also helps you to breathe calmly. It means you’re less likely to take short, shallow breaths, which can make the pain of contractions worse.
Privacy and control
Once you’re immersed in the warm waters of the pool, you’re in your own world and can labour undisturbed. If the lights are dimmed and the room is quiet then the effect will be heightened.
The water aids buoyancy and makes you feel lighter. It’s easy for you to move about, so that you can make yourself comfortable. The best position for you is likely to be one that helps your baby move most easily through your pelvis such as kneeling or squatting.
Coping with discomfort
Being in warm water can make it easier for you to cope with the pain of contractions (Cluett and Burns 2009). It’s just the same as having a bath to soothe a tummy ache or backache. If you want strong pain relief, such as Pethidine or an epidural, you’ll have to leave the pool. But you can use gas and air, to relieve the discomfort of the contractions whilst you are in the water.
Having a birth partner with you
Hospital guidelines state that you should not be left alone while you are in a birth pool. This means that either your midwife or your birth partner should be with you at all times. Your partner is welcome to get into the pool with you to help you to relax and offer soothing massage, so remember to pack his swimming shorts just in case !(Cluett and Burns 2009).
Peaceful birth for your baby
Champions of water birth believe that the transition to the outside world is less traumatic for babies who are born in water. The idea is that the warm waters of the pool will feel like the waters of your uterus (womb) to your baby. Babies born in water are often calm, and cry less than babies born in air.
Common concerns with water births
Research hasn’t found any difference in rates of infection between women who give birth in water or in air (Cluett and Burns 2009). Hospitals have strict rules about cleaning pools after each water birth and the pool is left hygienic after each use.
Disappointment with relief from contraction surges.
You may find that being in a birth pool doesn’t lessen the discomfort of contractions as much as you had hoped. If your plan was to spend most of your labour in water, it could be demoralising to have to get out so that you can have drugs, such as an epidural, for comfort. However at least you will have given it a try!
Monitoring and emergencies
You may have to stay out of the pool if your labour develops complications, such as problems with the baby’s heart rate or your labour is progressing very slowly. Having to get out of the water and change the course of your labour may be upsetting for you.
Baby starting to breathe under water
You may be worried that your baby will inhale water with his first breath if he is born in a birth pool. However, healthy babies have way of protecting themselves, called a “dive reflex”. They instinctively close their airway, stopping them from breathing in water (Harper 2000; Johnson 1996 cited Cluett and Burns 2009).
Frombumps2babies spoke to Maria about her water birth experience :-
I felt I really wanted to have a natural calm delivery where I could move around and be in control of my labour – for me a water birth seemed the ideal solution. I had a good pregnancy and was booked into a midwife led birthing centre with a birthing pool – so I was very positive about the birth. Finally after going a week overdue my contractions started about 7.00pm on the Sunday but I still managed to get some sleep. By the next day they were increasing so I spent the time doing my exercises, on my birthing ball, in the bath and eating bananas! I went into the Birth centre at 4.30pm and had dilated 5cm and at this point the contractions were much stronger – I got into the birthing pool at 7.30pm and the relief was amazing – I felt really calm and for me I felt I had some privacy with the lights dimmed and a quiet environment. Unfortunately at 9.00pm I developed a temperature and had to come out of the pool for a while – it was much harder to cope with the contractions on dry land! Luckily I could get back in the pool a few hours later and Finn arrived soon afterwards. It was a truly incredible experience – he was not screaming and even looked happy! I was the first person to touch him and that felt so special – we were in the pool for another 20 mins with no interruptions and was a beautiful start to life with my son. I’m now expecting baby number two and hope to have another water birth but that’s another story …….”
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