Childbirth is a life-changing experience for every parent. Many people spend their pregnancy building up hopes and dreams for their baby’s birth. Thankfully, decades of modern medicine and millenia of midwifery have given us plenty of tools to help make your dream birth a reality. One ancient method that has become increasingly popular in recent years is the water birth.
One of the most wonderful things about water birth is its versatility. You can use it whether you’re giving birth in a hospital, birthing center, or at home. All you need is a bathtub or small pool of warm, clean water to enjoy the benefits of this natural and gentle childbirth tool.
One of the most desired benefits of water birth is pain relief. The warm water helps to soothe and relax your muscles, making the contractions less painful. The buoyancy of water also reduces the pressure on your spine and pelvis, further reducing the strain and tension in your body. This combination of muscle relaxation and weightlessness can provide powerful pain relief. The effect is so notable that it has earned the nickname “nature’s epidural!”
Reduces the Risk of Tearing
Water birth also reduces the risk of tearing during delivery. The warm water helps to soften the tissues and make them more elastic, which helps them stretch enough for the baby to pass through naturally. The weightlessness effect of water can also reduce the amount of pressure on the perineum, reducing the risk of tearing. You’re also less likely to have an episiotomy during water birth, eliminating the need for stitches or risk for larger tears that come with the surgical cut.
Relaxation and Comfort
The relaxing effect of water is a benefit in and of itself. It can help regulate your breathing, making it easier to stay calm and focused during labor. Additionally, warm water is a soothing environment that helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Just feeling less stressed can make it much easier to cope through contractions. You can also move around and change positions more easily in the water, which will further reduce discomfort and promote relaxation.
Water birth also encourages bonding between you and your baby. The warm water provides your baby with a gentle transition from the womb to the outside world. Your baby will be born into a familiar and peaceful environment that helps keep them comfortable and calm. Babies are still receiving plenty of oxygen from the placenta immediately after birth and instinctively know not to breathe underwater, so you have time to slowly bring your baby into the air for the very first time. You’ll also be able to stay in the water for immediate skin-to-skin contact, which helps regulate their bodily functions and promotes bonding between the two of you.
Decreases the Need for Medication
Thanks to the benefits above, water birth decreases the need for medication during labor. This is great for parents who have a goal to avoid an epidural or pain medications such as morphine. It also means that you avoid the negative side effects of medication such as restricted movement, increased monitoring, and increased risk of needing more medications once you’ve received one*.
Safe and Effective
Water birth is a proven safe and effective method for laboring and birth. Whether you’re in a hospital, birth center, or at home, your provider will ensure that the water is kept at a safe temperature for you and your baby. They will also monitor your and your baby’s vital signs throughout the process. If any complications arise during labor, you can easily be helped out of the water to receive the necessary medical attention.
Water birth is a natural and gentle way to bring your baby into the world. It provides excellent pain relief and relaxation, reduces the risk of tearing, promotes bonding, decreases the need for medication, and is a safe, gentle way to deliver a baby. With proper preparation, support, and care, water birth can be a beautiful and empowering way to bring your baby into the world.
*We call this the “cascade of interventions” and if you’d like to read more about it, our article What You Need To Know About Epidurals goes into detail about what it looks like and why it happens.