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Water Birthing

Helen Nash is a Midwife and Doula from LovebirthDoula with over 30 years of experience and has had 2 successful water births herself.   She works in Singapore alongside Thomson Medical where they have a water birthing unit and gives us an insight into what a Hospital Water Birth is all about.

What is a Water Birth?

A water birth is basically giving birth to your baby in water and it has became quite popular but there are only few hospitals that offer Water Births.  Water will be poured gently over you and swished touching your sound, sight and smell senses.  Candles are put around the pool and its just a gentle environment for your baby to be born into.  And babies are much calmer on the whole when they have been born into the water.   They are less likely to cry when they come out and they look around much more and hold their heads up.  It’s quite amazing to see.

What are the Benefits of a Water Birth?

A water birth is that is an extenuation of the baby being in utero where it was in the amniotic fluid and its a much gentler birth because the baby is born into the water.  It also helps with your Pelvic Floor because you’ve got that counter pressure of the water against your Pelvic Floor so you are less likely to have perineal and labial damage.   And its much gentler for the baby as the baby is born into the water and can be lifted up onto the Mummy’s tummy.

How Long Do You Need to Prepare for a Water Birth?

You can start preparations at any time in the Pregnancy but normally for Hospital Water Births you need to do an interview with the hospital and you also need your Obstetrician to be on board.  You need to be at low risk of complications in order to have a Water Birth and you need to get your head in space of having a Water Birth too.

Are there any Risks with a Water Birth?

If you have a hospital Water birth you are still going to be in a hospital in a birthing room on the delivery suite so you still have all the things you need.  Some mothers and babies do not need monitoring but it is available if wanted or needed.  The baby can also even be monitored after the birth while in the water.  There will be the doctors, nurses available at all times and if you have a doula they will be there to support you 100% of the way.  I think there is nothing better than a water birth and thats what you want to do as I see the way women relax as soon as she enters the pool.   There are things that need to be considered like the importance of the water temperature being in the right range as if the temperature outside of the range can lead to the mother having a prolonged labour and its not good for the baby when they are coming out.  The right temperature range is 35 to 38 degrees.  Being warm helps the baby be in the same temperature they were in side of you so its then just continuing a momentum for them as they move into the water.

What About Pain During a Water Birth?

So people find generally that the water actually makes the pain a lot less than a birth outside of water.   If you are the kind of woman that loves going swimming, loves having a bath or shower when you have your period pains you are the best candidate for a water based birth.  What happens when you immerse yourself into water is that you just relax and you start releasing more oxytocin because you love that feeling.  We actually have pressure sensors in our chest and around there and the moment you get pressure on those from the water it feels like a warm hug and when you have a warm hug you release oxytocin so thats the power of the water. It will not take your pain away but it will allow you to cope with it much more because you have not got the weight of the baby and your belly and big breasts as the water is suspending you.  A lot of pain is felt from the Fear, Tension, Pain Cycle and if you are fearful you become more tense and your muscles including your Pelvic Floor are more tense this will lead to more pain.  Therefore the water helps to take away the fear and tension from your mind and then and then the muscle tension and allow the muscles to be more relaxed helping the baby to pass more easily.

When Does the Baby First Breathe?

The baby will not take a breath immediately when they are born into the water and will be still attached to the umbilical cord providing the oxygen.  When you bring them out of the water preferably head first that sometimes stimulates them to breathe.  Sometimes they dont breathe as soon as you bring them their head and torso above the water but its ok as the umbilical cord is still delivering blood and oxygen to the baby and will eventually start breathing on its own.  And if it doesnt you just gently stimulate your baby by placing on your chest so they can hear your heartbeat and you can talk to your baby.  And thats how it regulates its own heartrate and breathing and circulation and temperature.

Your baby will probably start off a bluish colour and then will change to pink.

At What Point to you actually get into the Bath?

So in my experience and also in the Michele Dons, Barbara Harpers and Ina May Gaskins of the world its recommended around 5cm dilation because when a woman is 5cm dilated she is considered to be in established labour.  If you go in before that point it can actually knock you out of labour because the water relaxes you so much.  But if you get in the water about 5cm it can actually help zip you through quite quickly the last part of labour.  I have known a first time woman to get to fully dilated from 5cm in just 10 minutes because it sped her through labour so quickly but this is unusual.  Usually its an hour or maybe a little bit more.

If the woman does not want a vaginal examination to check dilation then we would look at the length, strength and regularity of the surges before she gets in.

How Long Do You Spend After the Birth in the Water Bath?

Its normally about 1-2 hours after the birth they like to get you out and walking around and assess you and then you can get back in the pool if you want to but it depends on the woman

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