Waterbirth

Benefits of Water

Waterbirth is the process of giving birth in a tub of warm water. Some women choose to labor in the water and get out for delivery. Other women stay in the water for the delivery as well. The theory behind waterbirth is that since the baby has already been in the amniotic fluid sac for nine months, birthing into a similar environment is gentler for the baby and less stressful for the mother.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, midwives and a growing number of obstetricians believe that reducing the stress of labor and delivery will reduce fetal complications. Waterbirth should always occur under the supervision of a qualified health care provider.

How Did Water Birth First Get Started?
The first recorded water birth was in 1803 in France.  According to the story, a woman who had been in labor for 48 hours climbed into a tub of hot water to relax and her baby was born shortly afterward.  Not much is mentioned again about the technique until the 1960’s when a Russian scientist, Igor Charcovsky, began experimenting with the use of warm water immersion for women in labor to see how it affected their labor, the birth, and newborn behavior. Then in the late 1970’s through the 1980’s various obstetric practitioners began using warm water baths for laboring and birthing women.  Dr. Michel Odent in France and Dr. Michael Rosenthal in California collected information about its effects and women who had experienced it told their stories. Interest in the idea gradually spread around the world.

 

Benefits for Mother

  • Warm water is soothing, comforting, relaxing.
  • In the later stages of labor, the water has been shown to increase the woman’s energy.
  • The effect of buoyancy lessens a mother’s body weight, allowing free movement and new positioning.
  • Buoyancy promotes more efficient uterine contractions and improved blood circulation resulting in better oxygenation of the uterine muscles, less pain for the mother, and more oxygen for the baby.
  • Immersion in water often helps lower high blood pressure caused by anxiety.
  • The water seems to reduce stress-related hormones, allowing the mother’s body to produce endorphins which serve as pain-inhibitors.
  • Water causes the perineum to become more elastic and relaxed, reducing the incidence and severity of tearing and the need for an episiotomy and stitches.
  • As the laboring woman relaxes physically, she is able to relax mentally with greater ability to focus on the birth process.
  • Since the water provides a greater sense of privacy, it can reduce inhibitions, anxiety, and fears.

Benefits for Baby

  • Provides an environment similar to the amniotic sac.
  • Eases the stress of birth, thus increasing reassurance and sense of security.

 

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