Paging Northeast Doulas: Water Birth…What’s In It For You?
One of the labor topics that has always fascinated me is the concept of water birth. I know many women who find this idea appealing. After all, who doesn’t find a warm bath relaxing? No better time to work on relaxation than while in labor. But of course my mind can’t help but wonder about a number of things: is it safe for the baby? Is it safe for the mom? Are there benefits to it? And what, exactly, does the water look like once its all done? Must say, that last one has kept me up at nights! In another two part series, I’ve asked two of my contributors to share their expert opinions on the matter. First, we’ll be hearing from Randy, the Rock n’ Roll Doula from Northeast Doulas about why you may want to consider it. Come back tomorrow for the other side of the issue presented by Dr. Amos Grunebaum of BabyMed.com.
Water Birth… What’s In It For You? Clean Baby, Dirty Water
Water birth has long been associated with home birth and “crunchy all natural birth”, but the times… they are a changin’!
Many hospitals and birth centers now offer women the option to use water as a means of comfort during labor and some are even allowing women to give birth in the water.
Women, who use “hydro therapy” as a means of relaxation in their normal life (shower, tub, Jacuzzi), often feel called to the water during labor. Many women are seeking out this option for birthing, as it is known to ease the pain of labor and be a softer and smoother transition for the baby.
Similarly, women that use music for relaxation during stressful times also seem to take comfort from music during labor. The same can be said for massage and slow deep breathing. If you seek comfort from it when you are not in labor, you will likely take comfort from it when you are in labor.
But… deliver the baby IN THE WATER?!?!?!
Is it safe? Is it sanitary? Wouldn’t the baby drown?
Yes, maybe and No!
Water birth is safe (when mother and baby are both doing well and the pregnancy is considered low risk). During labor, a water Doppler can be used to listen to the baby’s fetal heart tones to be sure the baby is handling labor well.
Babies are in water, in utero (amniotic fluid) so a baby can be birthed into water and stay under while continuing to receive oxygenated blood through the umbilical cord for a short period of time.
We all have different standards of what is sanitary. Hospital birth tubs are cleaned, sanitized and cultured between uses. When birthing at home, consider the cleanliness of your own tub and be sure to get a full explanation of the cleaning process used when you are renting a birth tub.
Keep in mind…. When you birth your baby in the water, you and your baby will not be alone in the water. All of the bodily fluids and functions that come with birth will be sharing the water with you. Remember, most women poop when they push and that will be in the water too! Bring a net for catching the things that float to the top… I’m just sayin’…
Wouldn’t the baby drown?
No, babies do not typically inhale their first breath until they are exposed to air. Prior to that, they are surrounded by fluid and getting oxygenated blood through their umbilical cords. Once a baby has taken its first breath, it CANNOT be placed back under water as it is now breathing the same way you and I are. The baby should be slowly brought to the surface as to not pull the umbilical cord too quickly or firmly. Remember… the cord is still attached to the baby and the placenta, which is still attached to the uterine wall.
Water birth in a low risk pregnancy where both the mother and baby are physically managing the labor well, can be a wonderful option. Listed here are some scenarios where water birth would not be a safe option:
- A breech presentation
- The mother has been diagnosed with Herpes
- Mother is pregnant with multiples
- Meconium is present
- Maternal infection or excessive bleeding
- Mother has Toxemia or is Preeclamptic
The decision to use water for birth should be made by you and your provider. Your provider may have other scenarios that would prevent you from birthing in the water or he/she may just prefer not to do them. Keep in mind that the doctor or midwife would be kneeling by the tub to help deliver you and for some providers, that is too uncomfortable.
My advice… know your options, make decisions based on evidence based research and make sure that your providers philosophy of birth, is well aligned with yours!
Authored by: The Rock n’ Roll Doula