ChildbirthNorthwest Women’s Clinic offers Water Birth options at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital

Water birth is the process of giving birth in a tub of warm water.  Theoretically, since the baby has already been in the amniotic fluid sac for 9 months, birthing into a similar environment can be gentler for the baby. Women have reported that being in water for the labor helps them to relax, relieves pain, and is less stressful.

Midwives, birthing centers and a growing number of obstetricians believe that reducing stress in labor and delivery will reduce fetal complications. Water birth should always occur under the supervision of a qualified health care provider.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Waterbirths

What are the potential benefits of water birth?

Benefits for Mother:

  • Warm water is soothing, comforting, relaxing.
  • In the later stages of labor, the water has been shown to increase the woman’s energy.
  • The effect of buoyancy lessens a mother’s body weight, allowing free movement and new positioning.
  • Buoyancy promotes more efficient uterine contractions and improved blood circulation resulting in better oxygenation of the uterine muscles, less pain for the mother, and more oxygen for the baby.
  • Immersion in water often helps lower high blood pressure caused by anxiety.
  • The water seems to reduce stress-related hormones, allowing the mother’s body to produce endorphins which serve as pain-inhibitors.
  • Water causes the perineum to become more elastic and relaxed, reducing the incidence and severity of tearing and the need for an episiotomy and stitches.
  • As the laboring woman relaxes physically, she is able to relax mentally with greater ability to focus on the birth process, and reduce the risk of operative birth.
  • Since the water provides a greater sense of privacy, it can reduce inhibitions, anxiety, and fears.

Benefits for Baby:

  • Provides an environment similar to the amniotic sac.
  • Eases the stress of the birth thus increasing reassurance and sense of security.

What situations are not ideal for water birth?

If your baby is breech:
Though water birth has been done with bottom or feet first presentations you should discuss this risk thoroughly with your health care provider.

If you have been diagnosed with one of the following:
Excessive bleeding or maternal infection.

If you are having multiples:
Though water births have been successful around the world with twin birth, you should discuss this risk thoroughly with your health care provider.

If preterm labor is expected:
If a baby is pre-term (two weeks or more prior to due date), water birth is not recommended.

If there is meconium:
Mild to moderate meconium is fairly normal. Since meconium floats to the surface in a tub, your health care provider will watch for it and remove it immediately, and then help you out of the tub. If the water is stained and birth is imminent, the woman can lift her pelvis out of the water to birth the infant.

If you have Herpes:
Herpes transfers easily in water, so you should discuss this risk thoroughly with your health care provider.

If you have toxemia/preeclampsia:
You should thoroughly discuss this risk with your health care provider.

How did Water Birth first get started?

In 1803, according to a story, a woman in France who had been in labor for 48 hours climbed into a tub of hot water to relax and her baby was born shortly afterward. Not much is mentioned again about the technique until the 1960s. Igor Charcovsky, a Russian scientist, began experimenting with the use of warm water immersion for women in labor to see how the warm water affected their labor, the birth of the baby, and a newborn’s behavior.

From the late 1970s through the 1980s various obstetricians began using warm water baths for laboring and birthing women. Dr. Michel Odent in France and Dr. Michael Rosenthal in California collected information about its effects. Women who had experienced waterbirth told their stories. Interest in the idea has gradually spread around the world, and is mostly known throughout the midwife community.

Where can I get more information about Water Birth?

The organization Waterbirth International is a great source of information regarding water birth. It’s website has many educational books and videos. Visit Waterbirth International for more about water birth.

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