Will you have a water birth?
During labour, many women find that having a warm bath, or even shower, is a wondeful pain reliever.
A bath at home can be fine up to a point, but many women also find that they need to move around a lot more as the labour gets more intense. This is where a proper birthing pool can come in handy. You can either buy your own (portable pools can be bought for as little as $230 and can be re-used as a playpen and a paddling pool) for use at home or in the hospital; hire one; or, if your hospital has one installed in the birthing suite, you can use that one. (Bear in mind though that, in a hospital, there are no guarantees of availability as someone else might be using the pool at the time you want it.)
Here are some reasons why you might consider a water birth, as well as some things to be aware of.
- Immersion in water is a good form of labour pain relief and reduces the need for narcotics during labour.
- An increased sense of privacy. A feeling of safety and enclosure.
- The water’s weightlessness and buoyancy mean it’s easier to change positions and float freely.
- Your LMC should have the necessary monitoring equipment for a waterbirth, but being in a pool can also mean ascertaining the real necessity of some monitoring, and a result, there may be
less intervention for you.
- Makes it easier to rest and float in between contractions.
- Helps to ease the trauma of birth for baby, providing a gentle transition stage from womb to room.
- Baby can be born safely in the water, providing she remains fully submerged during the birth and there are no medical problems that would make a water birth unsuitable. Your LMC will advise you.
- After baby has been brought gently to the surface and taken her first breaths, she can remain in the water, submerged to her shoulders, to keep warm and to facilitate bonding, providing there is no medical reason why not.
- You cannot labour in water if you have had any form of narcotic pain relief (i.e., pethidine, epidural).
- You cannot labour in water if you are not well.
- You cannot labour in water if you have a breech presentation.
- There can be difficulty with electronic monitoring. If your LMC doesn’t have water-resistant transducers, and your baby needs continuous electronic monitoring, then you will need to get out
of the water.
- Overheating is one potential complication: you may have to get out of the water if your temperature rises more than 1° above your baseline temperature.
- Beware of dehydration: monitor fluid intake and bear in mind that fluid loss occurs even though you are in the water, especially in the warmer temperature of the pool.
- Blood loss: this is harder to gauge in the water, but your LMC can monitor other vital signs or even take water samples from the pool to assess any blood loss.
- It’s recommended that you are in established labour (generally accepted as 5cms dilated) before entering the pool. Any earlier and there is a chance that contractions might slow right down.
- You will have to get out of the water if the birth of the placenta needs to be actively managed, if you are bleeding excessively, or require suturing.