What is water birth?
There’s something magical about the sense of lightness and buoyancy that water gives to a changing body. If you’re thinking about having a water birth, here is what you need to know. By Maria Pokluda and Maryn Taylor of Dallas-Ft. Worth Placenta.
Women sometimes refer to laboring in water as using an “aquadural” – a cheeky reference to water’s pain relieving properties during labor.
Laboring in water helps a woman move easily into different positions which allow her to feel more comfortable. Many people also say that they feel a sense of privacy in the water, which allows them to relax while labor progresses. It’s thought that laboring in water slows the release of adrenaline and increases the release of the labor hormone oxytocin, encouraging regular contractions.
Whether you plan to give birth in the water, or, just labor in water and get out of the tub to give birth, it’s a good idea to explore all of the options so that you know what is available on the big day. With a bit of planning, most women can labor in water regardless of their chosen birth location – at home, in hospital, or at a birthing center.
At home, families can use the shower or the bathtub, or use a portable birthing tub. Some women even get into their swimming pool or hot tub. If you’re planning to labor in water at home, you’ll want to think about turning up your water heater to the maximum safe temperature at the beginning of labor to ensure that you have lots of hot water to last throughout your birth.
Birthing centers typically have gorgeous tubs as the centerpiece of their suites and they love to show them off! Tubs may be equipped with jets, bubbling water, or soft lights to be used during labor. Many also have large showers which give plenty of room to change position in as the warm water flows down. For many women who want water births, a birthing center is the perfect place to be as all of the logistics have been carefully thought through and the facilities are designed specifically for birthing.
Hospitals can offer a wide range of options too, depending on which facility you choose. You should have a discussion with your care provider and the hospital staff about what is available and under what circumstances you can take advantage of their offerings. Sometimes, however, there is a mismatch between what the provider wants and what the hospital support offers. For example, a provider may be supportive of water while a hospital’s protocols do not allow it; or at other times, a hospital may have a tub available or allow you to bring your own, but a care provider does not support patients wishing to use it. So make sure that you are well informed as to what’s available to you.
Most hospitals have a shower that you can labor in; many have bathtubs – some have standard sized bathtubs and some have larger garden tubs. An increasing number of hospitals have dedicated water birth pools, either an inflatable tub that’s available for their patients or large tubs installed in the labor rooms. Another option is to purchase or rent an inflatable birthing pool to take to the hospital with you.
As you consider portable birthing pools, you’ll find there are a number of options. There are pools for sale and pool kits for rent. Plan ahead for where in your home you’re planning to set up the pool to make sure that you have the proper connectors to attach to your sink or shower, and that you have enough hose to reach all the way to the pool.
Portable birthing pools typically require accessories such as a single-use liner, a fill hose with tap adapter, an air pump, and a water pump (to empty the pool). Setting up a birthing tub is not complex, but it does require a little bit of homework to ensure that you have everything you need when your baby’s on the way. Cleanup is also very easy – simply drain the water, discard the liner and deflate the pool. If doing it yourself isn’t in your plans, some birthing pool services even offer a concierge service option where a member of their staff will set up the pool and fill it with warm water, then come after your baby is born to drain and remove the pool.
Using water for buoyancy during labor can make your body – and your spirits – a bit lighter as you navigate the challenges of labor and birth. But in the end, whatever your decision around birthing, the best thing for you and for your tot is to be flexible and to embrace the birthing journey with an open heart and open mind.