Water Birth

Water birth is such a fascinating thing to me. The natural elements of it and the way babies come into life outside the womb is truly remarkable. Underwater childbirth has been a topic I’ve research and presented as a final for a college class just last winter. My findings led me to believe that this form of birth is not only beneficial to the mother, but the baby as well. 
Benefits of water birth:
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Provides significant pain relief 
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Speeds up labor
  • Gives the mother a sense of control
  • Allows for easier pushing
  • Helps blood circulation
  • Provides similar environment for baby as the amniotic fluid 
  • Eases the stress of birth
  • Allows baby to be born in a warm, relaxing environment
For many people, being in the water is naturally relaxing. You take a bath to relax and calm down at the end of the day. You take a hot tub after a hard workout to let your muscles relax. It’s a natural relaxing tool that can be used in the same way for childbirth. 
The biggest concern you might hear about water birth is the fear of babies taking a breath of air when they’re still in the water. Amazingly, babies actually don’t take their first breath until they’re outside the water. Waterbirth International explains how this works-

There are four main factors that prevent the baby from inhaling water at the time of birth:

1.  Prostaglandin E2 levels from the placenta which cause a slowing down or stopping of the fetal breathing movements. When the baby is born and the Prostaglandin level is still high, the baby’s muscles for breathing simply don’t work, thus engaging the first inhibitory response.

2.  Babies are born experiencing mild hypoxia or lack of oxygen. Hypoxia causes apnea and swallowing, not breathing or gasping.

3.  Water is a hypotonic solution and lung fluids present in the fetus are hypertonic. So, even if water were to travel in past the larynx, they could not pass into the lungs based on the fact that hypertonic solutions are denser and prevent hypotonic solutions from merging or coming into their presence.

4.  The last important inhibitory factor is the Dive Reflex and revolves around the larynx. The larynx is covered all over with chemoreceptors or taste buds. The larynx has five times as many as taste buds as the whole surface of the tongue. So, when a solution hits the back of the throat, passing the larynx, the taste buds interprets what substance it is and the glottis automatically closes and the solution is then swallowed, not inhaled.

For a more complete description, please read Barbara Harper’s Waterbirth Basics

 I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about water birth. Every person I’ve talked to or read about has said that water birth was far less painful than a “normal” birth and that they would most definately do it again! 

I would love to have a water birth some day! Has anyone had one? What were your experiences with it? Did you find the pain to be more or less painful (if/comparing to your first)? 


Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

9 thoughts on “Water Birth

  1. I had one with ds3. I've been wanting one since I was pregnant with ds1 & finally got one. It was great. Don't think it did much for the pain, but I didn't get into the pool until about 1 1/2 hours before he was born, so I was probably in/very close to transition. It probably would have been more helpful if I got in earlier, the time I spent sitting in the tub with the shower on my belly earlier in labour was really helpful in coping. It was really easy to clean up, too.

  2. My chiropractor's wife just had a water birth. She went completely all-natural with no meds, and stayed in the water until about 5 minutes before her baby was born. She thinks that the water really helped a lot with pain management.

  3. Good information on underwater birth. Very well explained. Underwater birth means delivery occurs while the mother is submerged in water. In this method, mother and new born child are benefited. But sometimes child has threat of inhalation also.

  4. With both of my labors, I took a long hot bath with the shower running before I actually went to the hospital. It relaxed me and helped me work thru my labor pains a lot. I had regualr deliveries with both my kids- both my labors were under 6 hours total and I think that the baths helped!

  5. All three of my children were born in a birthing tub, and I've loved the experience. I definitely relax a bit when I get into the tub. I've never experienced a “dry birth,” and I hope all my babes can be born in water. It's amazing!

  6. Thank you for quoting my article on the breathing mechanisms of newborns and what prevents them from inhaling or attempting to “breathe” while being born into the water. I have been doing this work for the past 25 years because my 2nd baby was born at home in a hand-made tub at the end of my bed, back in 1984. It was very hard to find information about waterbirth in those days – if not impossible, but I persevered and even got on a plane and went to France when I was six months pregnant to seek out doctors and women who were experienced in this gentle, loving method of birth. My motivation came from one of my patients (I was a holistic nurse in a family practice doctor's office). She came in and announced that she was going to have a waterbirth and then showed me an article from – of all places – the National Enquirer!! I thought she was nuts, but borrowed the article and told my partner that night that I was willing to consider having a baby if I could birth in water. My first birth was horrid back in the days of being strapped down to a delivery table with leather wrist restraints!! My search took me to Michel Odent's clinic and on to Frederick Leboyer. I came back from France convinced of the benefits and was willing to try it out myself. And it worked!! I have not stopped talking since then. My book, Gentle Birth Choices – now in it's third edition has a large chapter on waterbirth and is very useful for helping women to understand the process and to advocate for changes in their local hospitals. I am currently working on two new books – The Complete Guide to Waterbirth and Embracing the Miracle: How Pregnancy, Birth and the First Hour Influence Human Potential. Help me spread the word. I teach Waterbirth Workshops all over the world and love to go where there are parents eager for this information and providers interested in incorporating waterbirth into their practices and hospitals willing to assist women to have this wonderful birth experience. Our website will be undergoing some major changes in the next two months so that more information and articles will be available. You can already register your baby and send in your birth stories for everyone to read. Thanks again for helping me carry out my mission – “to insure that waterbirth is an available option for all women!” Blessings, Barbara Harper, RN, CLD, CCCE, Founder Waterbirth International

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