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)?