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Water birth: Is it right for you?

by the editorial team Published on February 17, 2013

Giving birth isn't the most fun thing, let's face it. And that's mainly because it's pretty painful.

Water birth: Is it right for you?

That's why more and more people are trying out water birth where, you guessed it, you give birth in water. It's said to be good for relaxing your muscles and making the whole process less painful.

Because it's not as common as giving birth out of water many people can be a tad scared of it, but research has shown that babies born in water are just as healthy as those born out of water.

What is water birth?

Well as we said, water birth is, quite simply, giving birth in water. Specially designed birthing pools, which are bigger and deeper than baths are now available in many hospitals.

How does it work?

If you want to have a water birth you should chat with your midwife before you go into labour. Birthing pools work on a first come first served basis, so you should ask them what will happen if they are all in use when you go into labour.

You will probably be told to get into the pool when your cervix is at least five centimetres dilated, but birthing pools can also be used in the earlier stages to help you relax and to relieve pain.

A midwife will be with you throughout the whole process. She'll check the baby's heart rate and the temperature of the water every now and then.

There are lots of different positions that you can use in a birthing pool, like squatting, kneeling and floating on your back. Your partner can also get in with you, but it's best to make sure that they have a shower first.

During birth you might be asked to leave the pool for various different reasons, such as check ups, if the pool is heavily soiled or, if your labour has slowed down, after two hours if your labour isn't moving forward you might be asked to leave and can return later.

You can also leave the birthing pool if you feel that you want to, just because you've got the pool doesn't mean you have to be in it for the full time.

Also, some hospitals say that you have to get out of the pool just before you give birth, but it tends to vary.

Some mums worry about their babies trying to breathe under water when they're born, but the baby's breathing reflex normally isn't triggered until they are out of the water.

Can you do it at home too?

Yes, you can definitely have a water birth at home. You will need to buy or hire a birthing pool from a company. There are lots of different types and they can cost up to $300 to hire. You might even want to hire a birthing pool to help you relax in the late stages of pregnancy or the early stages of labour.

If you do decide to have a water birth at home you need to ask for a midwife with water birth experience and you need to take a few practical issues into account. Do you have a big enough room? Can you get water into the bath from that room? How will you empty the water afterwards?

What are the benefits?

In the same way that a bath relaxes you and soothes any aches and pains, water birth helps to ease pain and keep you relaxed.

Being in water helps you to move into lots of different positions easily.

The water supports your body so you might find that you get less tired.

Water birth can help to lower blood pressure.

Some say that it makes labour quicker, others say that it makes it slower, but the research so far is pretty inconclusive.

What are the downsides?

Water birth isn't a good idea for everyone. If your baby is breech, two weeks or more premature or if you're having twins or triplets you probably can't do it. It's mainly for people with what they call an 'uncomplicated labour'.

Not every hospital has the facilities, and even if they do they might not be free when you go into labour.

It can be a bit messy, so it's probably not for the squeemish.

You can't have an epidural or use the TENS machine for pain relief, but you can use gas and air.

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