A water birth is classified as a water birth when the baby is born in the water. Using water as pain relief during labor is common and effective but these births are not classed as water births.
Just because we humans are near water, see water, are in or under water, our brain, our nervous system is affected - it has a physiological effect on us and our bodies.
We start growing in water and spend our first 9 months in water before being born into the world. Our origin is water. Something you can easily forget as a human being. Water IS powerful to us and is part of our creation, our foundation.
We are mostly made up of water and cannot survive without water for a particularly long time.
The desire to birth in water is therefore not particularly strange or alien.
Imagine the smooth transition from being surrounded by warm water inside the womb to being born in water. Where the little body suddenly gets to stretch out after being huddled together for nine months and be lifted - either by a parent or someone else who is there to welcome this new little person into the world. I think it sounds like a very nice and soft way to be born!
If you want to learn more about the effects of water on our bodies, you should read the book Blue Mind by Wallace J Nicholas (marine biologist who has done research in the field).
WHAT DOES WATER BIRTH CONTRIBUTE TO?
- Equalized hydrostatic pressure
- Private sphere
All of the points above create more OXYTOCIN. What Barbara Harper calls "The ahhh effect..." The birthing person melts in the water. Water creates contact with our parasympathetic nervous system and allows us to feel calm, in control and comfortable.
WHEN SHOULD YOU GO INTO THE WATER?
- When you need pain relief regardless of whether it is at 2 cm. Use the water as a pain reliever. Either the pains will stop or they will become more powerful, stronger. Don't wait for 5-6 cm or those called active labor. There is no reason to wait so long.
- When the pains increase in frequency & intensity.
- Use the birthing pool/tub for pain relief.
- 1 1/2 - 2 hours - Test this time & see what happens with the birth.
- In and out of the water is best - this promotes/increases the oxytocin.
- A calmer & more relaxed birth does not mean that birth has stopped. The pains are experienced differently in water & on land.
TO THINK OF:
- Pick up the baby carefully to avoid the umbilical cord breaking off, studies show an increased number of umbilical cord ruptures in water births, we don't know what causes this.
- No warmer than 37-38 degrees in the water. Have a thermometer in the bathtub or birthing pool.
- The child must be born from water to water. So not out, breath and then back into the water.
- Pregnant women should drink plenty of fluids, preferably with some form of energy such as sugar, sports drink or coconut water.
- Mothers should urinate regularly.
- Check the room temperature. Open windows, ventilate, fan so that the baby doesn't get too hot.
WHAT DOES RESEARCH SAY ABOUT THE CHILD?
- No difference in Apgar (assessment of vitality of children at birth).
- No differences in frequency of children admitted to neo.
- No differences in umbilical cord samples.
- No increased risk of infection in children.
- Increased risk of umbilical cord rupture (the umbilical cord breaks off).
Have you given birth in water or wish to give birth in water? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
Information in the text comes from Hanna Ulfsdottir's lecture on water births and education in water births for support persons by Barbara Harper.