Water has the potential to offer incredible relaxation and comfort during labor and birth. When laboring women immerse themselves in water, a deeper level of letting go is often achieved. We know that letting go is what lets the baby come! Birth is not about “doing” so much as about allowing and opening and surrendering with one’s whole being. Water is the obvious grand facilitator for all of those things.
When a woman in labor relaxes in a warm deep bath, free from gravity’s pull on her body, with sensory stimulation reduced, her body is less likely to secrete stress-related hormones. This allows her body to produce the pain inhibitors-endorphins-that complement labor. Noradrenaline and catecholamines, the hormones that are released during stress, actually raise the blood pressure and can inhibit or slow labor. A laboring woman who is able to relax physically, is able to relax mentally as well.
At the end of pregnancy, it can be troublesome to quickly turn over from side to side, but not so in the water. The effect of buoyancy that deep water immersion creates allows spontaneous movement of the mother. No one has to help the mother get into a new position. What a change from the heaviness of “land.” She moves as her body and the position of the baby dictate. Movement helps open the pelvis, allowing the baby to descend.
We’ve noticed that when a woman enters the water, there is a certain quietness that settles over the entire environment. Voices get softer, the mother stays calmer and everyone becomes more tuned in to the sacredness of the event.
Babies born in water often just spiral out, looking up and around, with curiosity as they are born. They are able to open to their new surroundings in a more gentle way, without shock or fear.
As midwives, we rarely need to touch a woman as she gives birth in the water. The water supports her! It is so easy for her to reach down and guide her baby out of her body, because the water is supporting her body and her perineum. So empowering!
Many women, midwives, and doctors acknowledge the analgesic effect of water. We’ve heard countless mothers state that they would never consider laboring without water again.
Known benefits of water labor and water birth:
Facilitates mobility and enables the mother to assume any position which is comfortable for labor and birth
Speeds up labor
Reduces blood pressure
Gives mother more feelings of control
Provides significant pain relief
Conserves her energy
Reduces the need for drugs and interventions
Gives mother a private protected space
Reduces perineal trauma and eliminates episiotomies
Reduces cesarean section rates
Is highly rated by mothers
Is highly rated by experienced providers
Encourages an easier birth for mother and a gentler welcome for baby
At Three Sisters, we highly recommend that mothers consider setting up a water birth pool so they can have the option to labor or birth in water. It’s absolutely fine to have a tub set up and not get in, or get out before the birth. However, if there’s no tub set up, obviously there is no choice.
For more information, check out WaterBirthSolutions.Org, a site created by waterbirth experts. You can purchase your very own birth pool there if you choose, rather than rent one.
(Find the Client Water Birth Tub Rental List Here.)