I was mildly curious about water birth, but I didn’t think it was the right option for me until I got a midwife, who was a big water birth advocate. She kept on asking me about it until I finally added it to my birth plan, with the provision that I could change my mind when the time came, if I really didn’t feel like getting into that pool.
As it turned out, I didn’t change my mind. In fact, I couldn’t wait to get in. Before that I was trying to control the pain with hot water packs and the pain kept on escaping me. When I put the hot water pack on my belly, the pain would move to the back. When I held one to my back, the pain would travel to the sides. Once in the water, there was warmth all around me and it brought instant relief.
Why choose water birth?
The warm water is very effective pain relief.
Peaceful birth. The warm water environment feels more like the uterus to the baby and is said to contribute to a less stressful transition. I can’t confirm if this was true or not for my baby, because the first moments after the birth remain very hazy. There didn’t seem to be excessive crying or I would remember, but then I didn’t experience excessive crying with any of my non-water babies, either.
More privacy. While you’re not very like to care how many people see you naked while you’re giving birth, it’s still nice to have your private parts covered.
It was my midwife’s belief that the warm water makes the skin of the perineum softer and helps it stretch. I haven’t been able to find scientific evidence that this is exactly what happens, but there’s research showing that women are less likely to experience tearing during water births. That was my experience, too. I didn’t feel the stretching sensation as strongly in the water and my water birth was the only one out of three when I didn’t need any stitching.
There’s preparation involved. It takes time to fill up the water and if your labour is quick, you may not even make it into the birth pool. On the other hand, if your labour is long, the water may get cold and would need to be refilled.
Possibility of infection. You may accidentally open your bowels while giving birth and even though your midwife will clean up quickly, you’d worry that your baby is being born into the same water. On the other hand, non-water birth is not sterile either and most studies have found no increased infection rates for water births.
Safety concerns about the baby being under the water. During the birth of my daughter the midwife explained to me that the baby doesn’t start breathing until contact with air, so I had to keep her under the water until the body was born. But if I accidentally brought her out, I had to be extra careful not to put her back into the water again. It all seemed logical at the time she explained to me, but everything got foggy in my brain in the middle of labour, so I was grateful to have people around me who knew what they were doing to direct me and make sure my baby was safe.
You will have to leave the pool if there are any complications and the transition may be unsettling.
Sounds great, but are there any cons?
Overall, my water birth experience felt very gentle and empowering, and I’d chose it again.