I still remember the day I decided I was going to have a water birth. I was newly married, nowhere near contemplating having children yet living in a one bedroom apartment with my husband. I can still remember sitting at my computer desk when I somehow stumbled upon information about water birth. I had never heard of it nor had anyone I knew of at the time. But the more I read about it, the more I was convinced and decided then and there I was going to have a water birth. When I told my husband and best friend, they both thought I was crazy but that didn’t matter to me. And all these years later (around 7), I had the water birth I planned on. I’m so thankful I stumbled upon that information! What a wonderful experience it was!
The benefits of water birth are amazing! The first book I read that had a lot of great information about water births was Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper. Here are some of the wonderful benefits a mother and baby experience when a mother births her baby in the water:
- Greater comfort and mobility. The mother has much greater ease and freedom to move spontaneously and to change position to assist the descent of the baby.
- Reduction of pressure on the abdomen. Buoyancy promotes more efficient uterine contractions and better blood circulation, resulting in better oxygenation of the uterine muscles, less pain for the mother, and more oxygen for the baby.
- Promotes deeper relaxation. As a woman relaxes deeply in water, her hormones kick in and she starts progressing faster and with more rhythm; labor becomes more efficient.
- Water relaxes the pelvic floor muscles.
- Water minimizes pain so effectively that for most women other pain control methods are no longer needed.
- Immersion is often more effective and safer than an epidural. Some people call waterbirth an “aquadural” or “the midwife’s epidural”.
- Lowering of blood pressure. When anxiety is causing high blood pressure, immersion in water often helps lower it.
- Change of consciousness. Immersion helps relieve anxiety and promotes relaxation. Water helps a woman to let go and focus inward as labor strengthens.
- Empowerment of the mother. When a woman delivers her baby while remaining awake, aware and in control, it greatly enhances the birth experience for her and becomes a source of great personal strength and power that enriches her life forever.
- Water seems to alleviate stress-related hormones, allowing the mother’s body to produce endorphins, which are pain-inhibitors.
- Water causes the perineum to become more elastic and relaxed, which reduces the incidence and severity of tearing and the need for an episiotomy and stitches.
What about the risks? Is it safe? Check out Barbara Harper’s article on this to get all the answers to those questions. Just briefly, though, babies do not breathe until exposed to the air. “As soon as the newborn senses a change in environment from the water into the air, a complex chain of chemical, hormonal and physical responses initiate the baby’s first breath.” This is the question I see most asked and you can read all the reasons why in the article linked above.
I think, more than research, what speaks to me is hearing other women’s stories and experiences. I have read and heard a lot of wonderful water birth stories and wanted to share mine with you.
For me, once the contractions kicked in and I needed to stop and concentrate through them, I wanted to be in the water. While at home, before I went to the birth center, I got into the water and felt instant comfort and reduced pain. I ate the chicken and rice “labor day” soup my mom had prepared for me and shortly after that, we were off to the birth center! Once we arrived at the birth center, I had to wait a little while to get in since I was still in early labor. The contractions were harder for me to deal with out of the water. I knew I needed to wait a little while though and we tried different techniques for the contractions. The worst was laying on the bed though so I didn’t do that much at all! It wasn’t too long and I was in the water! It was wonderful! It really took the edge off the pain. I could just focus within and relax through the contractions. I even slept through some honestly! For the most part, from then on out I was in the water, only getting out to go to the bathroom, to be checked or to have the water reheated. At 8:09 am, my beautiful baby girl, Marcella, was born in the water. I pushed a little sooner than I should have because I could feel she would be here with one more push and got excited! As a result, I don’t think everyone was quite ready so she swam out to us. :) She was crying which I wasn’t expecting because most water babies don’t but Marcella does a lot of things differently so this is no surprise. :) She was placed on me immediately and the whole experience was incredible! I can’t wait to do it again!
If you had a water birth, I would love to hear your experience as well!
January 9th, 2010 at 10:43 pm
After having a hospital births with my first 2 children, I knew if we had another one, I definitely wanted to go natural and not in a hospital setting. A waterbirth was also at the top of my list! Thankfully, I live in an area where a waterbirth is an available option. My labor began about a week after my due date. Since I had been induced with my other 2, it took my body a good while to go into real labor. By the time my contractions were in a regular pattern, I was already at the birth center. When my contractions began to increase in intensity, I decided to get in the birthing pool. I loved how immediately I could feel myself relax! The water really did help me cope with the pain. For some moms getting in the water can make them too relaxed and can cause their contractions to slow down. This is what happened to me, so I got out of the water and used the birthing ball and walking to help my contraction pick up again. This happened twice, so I decided not to get in the water again until transition. I did a ton of walking and eventually my midwife checked me and I was 8 centimeters dilated. It was so nice to know I was making progress! Not long after, we decided to break my water and the urge to push came very soon. I was ready to get back in the water and the relief was wonderful. Just a few minutes after getting back in, I was ready to have my baby! A few pushes later and he was born! My waterbirth was an amazing experience!! I would never want to birth any other way!
January 15th, 2010 at 7:43 pm
Thanks for sharing your story! Strangely enough, I never went through transition. Don’t think that is a water birth thing since I’ve never heard that…guess I was just blessed. :)
January 10th, 2010 at 1:18 am
I loved reading about your waterbirth! I haven’t done one personally but if I felt drawn to it I would consider it for a future birth. I do love the shower sprayer right on my abdomen to get me through tough times in early labor. And ITA that laying on the bed is the WORST – I even declined cervical checks laying down with Geneva’s homebirth b/c it was so uncomfortable, I squatted instead while the nurse checked me and that was much more comfortable.
You’re so fortunate to have birth centers near you! I wish we had them here.
January 15th, 2010 at 7:44 pm
Water is great in any capacity for labor relief I think! I hated having to lay down on the bed to get checked and just assumed that is what I had to do. Then towards the end, she checked me in the water and I remember thinking I wish I had known that all along! I just always got out when I wanted to be checked and never even asked! I am really blessed to have so many wonderful birth centers to choose from in my area!
January 10th, 2010 at 11:11 am
Since I was with you during your labor I can attest to the fact that it was a very relaxed environment. When you were not in the water that is when things became somewhat tense. I had only experienced my own births (induced) and what you see on tv or movies. What a difference this was. There was no yelling, screaming, you were never out of control and were so relaxed and peaceful. I had tried to prepare myself for how hard it was going to be to see you in pain and you barely made a peep. I was just so amazed and remember thinking what an amazing daughter I have. I was in awe of the whole experience. I realize any grandmother that attends a birth is thrilled as I would be with any birth choice you choose. My point is aside from all those maternal feelings anyone would have towards their daughter giving birth there was another aspect of this type of birth that was different.
January 15th, 2010 at 7:45 pm
Even I was surprised by how relaxing it was…like being at a day spa. :)
January 10th, 2010 at 11:47 pm
I too can remember when you told me about waterbirths…and you were correct when you said I thought you were crazy. Seven years later, when you reminded me that’s what you wanted, I still thought you were crazy. But the more you had me read…ok I didn’t read it, but the more you read to me, the more comfortable I was with it. When it was time for Marcella to come I could definitely tell a difference when you were in the tub vs. being on the bed. In fact, I am pretty sure you got more rest the night you were in labor than I did. There where a couple times you slept through your contractions. I will never forget the midwives telling you to rest on the last contraction and you pushed anyway and there was Marcella swimming around the tub because the midwives weren’t ready for her.
January 15th, 2010 at 7:46 pm
It is true that I wasn’t even that tired somehow while you and my mom were exhausted! So funny!
January 11th, 2010 at 9:37 am
It was nice to read your experience and April’s as well. Especially since I am 90% sure I am going to be doing it too. I am actually starting to look forward to it. = )
January 15th, 2010 at 7:46 pm
I know I am looking forward to doing it again in the future!
January 12th, 2010 at 9:09 pm
I have heard of water births before but never knew much about them! VERY neat! Thanks for sharing your story! I really enjoyed reading it…
January 15th, 2010 at 7:47 pm
Thanks for reading! I forget that even though it is not unheard of like it used to be, most people still don’t know a lot about them so I’m glad to share!
February 2nd, 2010 at 5:14 pm
Wow! You are my hero. I would never be able to do something like that.
February 2nd, 2010 at 7:43 pm
Thanks! But I bet you could if you put your mind to it. ;)
November 15th, 2010 at 10:29 am
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