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I have had water births with both my children and found the experiences quite different each time.
With my first son, born in Feb 2008, my water birth was almost accidental! I arrived at the hospital and was on the verge of being sent home as I was only 2 cm dilated when labour really started! I think there was a strong psychological intervention going on as I really didn't want to go home!
I really started to feel the contractions and was up to 4cm very quickly, eligible for pain relief now! I was given gas and air and found relief with this for an hour or so until I started to beg for an epidural! I had strongly said that I would hot have an epidural before my labour and therefore the midwife and my husband suggested some other methods, one of which was to labour in the water.
I have never been a real fan of relaxing hot baths etc so I wasn't entirely sold on this idea but the only other alternative was to be transferred to the main hospital labour ward rather than the birthing centre so I decided to give it a go.
The pool takes about 25 minutes to fill and has a temperature gauge in it so that the midwives can ensure it is the right temperature before you get in and maintain the temperature for the duration that you are in the pool. I have to say when I first stepped into the pool, there was an amazing sense of relief and a definite 'aaaahhh' feeling!
Even though I was in the pool i was still able to have gas and air as my husband wheeled the canister around the pool following me around as I swam about! This was great as it allowed me a greater sense of freedom and I could adjust my position to how I was feeling with each contraction.
The midwives were able to monitor the baby very easily still as they had a waterproof heart monitor and a special reflective instrument which looked like a fish slice to see what was going on 'down there'! They also had a sieve in case of any 'accidents' in the water so to speak!
My labour progressed very quickly once I was in the pool and I feel that this was partly down to being able to move about and get into positions that let gravity help! I ended up giving birth in the pool rather than on dry lanecause there wasn' t a point where I ever felt I wanted to get out. I had the baby after being in the pool for about an hour and a half and the pushing stage of labour only took 20 minutes. I did find the experience a little bit scary when his head had been born and because I was sitting down leaning back on the pool walls, I could see everything, including him turning around and the hind waters etc and I wasn't expecting it. Once his body was born he was immediately placed on my chest, this was a lovely moment and we were so overwhelmed we didn't even look at what sex he was! He was quite slippery as he still had a lot of vernix covering him and was wet from the pool so I felt better when I handed him to my husband because I was worried I mi ght drop him!
It seemed a bit fiddly cutting the cord while I was in the pool and we let the midwives do it instead of hubby as again I was worried about dropping him! I was given an injection of syntocinon while I was in the pool and then got out to deliver the placenta.
Unfortunately because I had been in the pool and was all wet I ended up getting quite cold when I got out and it was quite unpleasant sitting in a wet tankini top whilst pushing the placenta out!
All in all I would say this water birth was excellent, the water was a fantastic pain relief method and helped my labour progress quickly and problem free. The small drawbacks were nothing in comparison with the benefits .
When it came to being pregnant again I was adamant I wanted another water birth, fearing that this would be the only way I would cope with the pain of child birth! I questioned the midwife on how many pools there were at the hospital and what would happen if they were all in use. I was quite nervous that things would not go according to my plans, but these things rarely do!
I went into labour in the middle of the night and knowing how quickly everything happened previously, I phoned the hospital straight away and was told to go in. Once I was examined I was told to stay and th but at I was definitely having a baby that day, lucky as it was Christmas eve!
I mentioned straightaway that I wanted a water birth and asked them to get it ready, I was initially met with resistance as I was told that midwives don't really like delivering babies in water! This aside, they agreed to fill the pool and give me gas and air in the meantime. The main difference between the two births here being that my waters had not yet broken, this turned out to make the water quite a different experience.
When I got in the pool I did not have the same feeling of relief, instead I felt uncomfortable and confined and no position seemed quite right, at least being in the pool meant I could change position easily!
I felt indecisive about getting out of the pool but at the same time I did not want to leave the security of my space and area in pool. As it turned out I didn't have much time to dither as my waters finally broke and 13 minutes later he was here!
The two births were different in terms of the pain relief and experience I had but I think this would be true of any two births. I would encourage any women thinking about a water birth to give it a go, even if it is just for the contractions and you get out for the actual birth. I believe the water aided both my deliveries and am very pleased I gave it a chance!
I had wanted to have a waterbirth with my first but we hadn't had time to fill the pool. With my second we were a bit more on the ball so to speak and had a half-filled pool of water ready from early in labour. I'd been in on/off labour for about 24 hours when my waters broke. A midwife advised me that it still looked like I was in early labour and to try and stay out of the pool a bit longer but to rest. I slept for about 5 hours and when I woke felt like I wanted to get into the pool. My husband started filling with hot water to warm it up which took about 3/4 hour to get it to the right temperature and depth. When I got in it was absolute bliss, I felt light and floaty. The warmth really relaxed me BUT labour stopped. For a clear half hour I had no contractions, so we decided that I probably still wasn't in established labour so didn't call the midwife. When contractions restarted they were comfortable because I could easily move about. When we reached the 2 in 10 when we'd been told to call the midwife, my husband started looking for a phone that worked (our landline had been cut off the previous day by building work), once he was speaking to the midwife centre I started wanting to push and by the time he spoke to a midwife the head was out. I'm glad I was in water because, without having a midwife there for guidance, it was a lot more straightforward to push him out in water and catch him. He didn't cry which is nerve wracking when no-one is there to say he's ok, but I imagine would be nice if I'd had a midwife there. The midwife arrived and I got out of the pool for the third stage and had a second degree tear.
- very relaxing and comfortable
- easy to move around, good to get in a position for pushing
- if I had another, I'd want it again despite the cons
- easier to catch the baby myself than on land
- took a lot of my husband's time and energy to fill the pool and keep it the right temperature, which took him away from supporting me and timing contractions
- didn't stop tears in my case as is sometimes alleged
- possibly too relaxing - stopped labour for me quite far along
Overall, it was a very comfortable and relaxing experience, if only I'd managed to get a midwife there and we weren't afraid because we didn't have one, it would have been perfect!
The Wonders of a Water Birth
When I found out I was pregnant it took me a little while to get over the shock of it all, but once I did, and began to think ahead to the birth, I knew instinctively that as well as having a completely natural birth, I wanted to incorporate water somewhere into proceedings.
Getting a completely drug free labour and birth can be a difficult thing these days, when giving birth continues to be seen as a medical undertaking requiring hospitals, doctors, drugs by the bucketful and lots of medical precautions just in case. The medical society seems to easily forget that we of the female of the species are designed for giving birth to these glorious babies of ours, and that if they manage to put their intravenous drips to one side long enough, they will maybe get a chance to witness us birthing in a most primal and beautiful way, and all in glorious technicolour! Throughout my pregnancy I found I was able to be quite calm and firm with health professionals, and being well informed about my options helped a lot in my getting what I have to say was the most amazing experience of my life. A perfectly natural and drug free birth, and a beautiful, gorgeous, inspiringly wonderful baby girl to take home and love forever!
At my first booking-in session with my midwife, I discussed with her my hopes to give birth at home and in water, and this was deemed absolutely fine, as long as the pregnancy progressed well and there were no problems. So far so good. Now there were many reasons I wanted to have a home birth, not a hospital one, but Im going to save that discussion for another review. One of the reasons (though a fairly small one in comparison with the others) was that at home, I knew I would definitely be able to use the pool in hospital I would have to hope no-one got to the pool first, or I would have to wait my turn! So with a thumbs up from my midwife I put my plans in motion to have my baby at home, getting all the kit I needed and making sure I was totally prepared by reading lots about birth in general, and water births particularly. This review is for you if you are thinking about using water when you have your baby, and I hope it helps!
I am very happy in water. I love the gentle, relaxing and enveloping quality of water, and if its warm water, all the better. There is a sort of meditative sense that I get from being in water that I dont have on land in quite the same way, and being able to get into a state of meditation I knew would help me in the throws of labour. The idea of giving birth in water seemed so natural to me even before I read anything about it. Waters ability to relax me was a powerful aspect of my choice to strive for a water birth, as I knew that if I could try and be relaxed and calm and let my body and my baby do their work, both baby and I would possibly have an easier time of things, and this was one thing that I am happy to say I was proved right in. Water is also a great method of managing pain, and as I was intending to try and get through my labour and birth without any drugs for pain relief, this seemed like the perfect option for me.
The Pros and Cons of Having a Water Birth
Dealing with the cons first, to be honest there arent that many getting in too early can slow labour down, or even stop it for a while, so this is obviously not a great thing as once you start your labour, you really want it over and done with as soon as possible! The positive aspects of labouring in water far outweigh the negatives, and Ive tried to cover them here:
Physical Support water is buoyant and as such, when youre in it, you are supported. There is a sense of weightlessness which is divine when youve had to get used to lumbering about like an elephant in the last weeks of your pregnancy. Another good thing about the light as a feather aspect of water is that you dont have the effort of supporting your own weight and therefore your body is conserving energy that it can use to great effect later, when it comes to pushing your baby out. On land you would be using double the energy in supporting your body and labouring/pushing. Definitely a plus point!
Pain Management as I mentioned before, water has a pain relieving effect on most people: think about how you feel when you have backache, or period pain, and you get into a lovely hot, deep bath. The relief is often instant and breathtakingly good! Its a fact that a high proportion of women who labour in water dont need any drugs to help with the pain, or intervention when it comes to pushing the baby out. I didnt even use gas and air so Im proof of that! I dont for a minute think that the pain was any less than when I was on land the contractions were still very harsh and hard and difficult, but being in the water did much to help me cope with them and that really is the key. You dont go into labour thinking its not going to hurt, but you can go into labour, as I did, believing that you can cope and that you can get through it, and having a way of assisting you in this quest is really important. For me, it was the people I was with, my confidence in my body to do what it was designed for, and the feeling I got from being surrounded by calm and peaceful warm water. It didnt stop the pain, but it helped me deal with it in quite an amazing way.
Upright and Mobile it is a fact that the woman who stays upright and mobile, finding positions that are right for her, will have a shorter labour and an easier birth. Being upright means your baby works with your body better and your body lets gravity play its part in getting your baby out into the world.
Shorter Labour again another well documented fact is that if you labour in water you are likely to have a shorter labour : just make sure you dont get in too soon your midwife will guide you.
Perennial Damage this is the plus point I like best. Labouring in water wont guarantee an intact lower region, but your chances of tearing are much reduced by having your baby in water as opposed to on land. Again I am proof of this as I didnt tear at all. Great stuff!
Better for Baby a baby born in water has a less traumatic time making the transition from being inside you to being out in the harsh air as they have the water as a sort of transitional place. As a result, you are likely to have a very much calmer, chilled out, confident baby and thats always a good thing! Eva is so calm its just amazing and Im certain that her drug free, intervention free, peaceful water birth has much to do with it!
Better for Mum as well as having a shorter labour, having potentially less damage below, having a better grasp on pain management and being better able to deal with the pain, mums who birth in water tend to have lower blood pressure than those who birth on land. Now Im not a medical person, but I imagine it has a lot to do with the fact that in water there are less stresses on your body, and not having to support your own weight (the water does that for you) means your heart doesnt have to work as hard as if you were on land. Just a theory. Lower blood pressure is certainly a very good thing though!
When You Cant Have a Water Birth
There are a number of factors that would give any midwife concerns over a water birth, and its a very good thing if you can listen to your midwife if he or she thinks a water birth wouldnt be a good idea. Some of those things they might worry about include:
A breech baby
High blood pressure or raised temperature in the mother
Meconium in amniotic fluid
Generally as long as mum is fit and well and baby is doing fine, water birth is a great option. Not all hospitals have facilities for such a birth but the best thing to do is to ask your midwife. You will find however that if you want any sort of intervention or if you are induced (where this involves being attached to a drip and a foetal monitor) you wont be able to have a water birth. As above, ask your community midwife for more information on your particular situation.
How to get a Water birth
If your local hospital or midwife run birthing centre has the facilities, then this is a good option if youre happier with the idea of giving birth in a hospital environment. Otherwise, look at hiring a pool for use at home. I actually borrowed an inflatable pool from my sister, who had her second baby at home in it. As it turned out I ended up in the pool at the hospital which was solid and much sturdier than the inflatable job so my advice there would be to hire a solid pool, not an inflatable one as they feel more supportive. Talking to your midwife or GP is the best place to start to get an idea of whats available to you and how to organise getting the birth experience you want. Being informed is also very important, and can help a lot when you are talking with health professionals. Another thing you can do is check out all the information online madeinwater.com is a great site and this is where my sisters inflatable birth pool came from. There are lots of other sites, many written by midwives or including information from midwives which is highly valuable if youre drawn to the idea of birthing in water.
What You Need for a Water Birth
A pool. Solid ones are best in my opinion, but whatever you decide, made sure its big enough for 2 if you want your partner to be in the water with you to support you, or just big enough for you to move around if you need to.
A thermometer. Very important, this is to keep an eye on the temperature. The water has to be 37 degrees at the point of the baby being born to stop the baby from breathing underwater. The baby wont breathe until it feels the cool air or cool hands on its skin, so for this reason, water births are normally hands off (the midwife or you can guide the baby to the surface and then pick baby up).
Old t-shirt for wearing in the pool, though to be honest, youll probably want to be naked, and your midwife will be happy to go with whatever feels most comfortable to you.
Towels. Lots of them. Warm fluffy ones ready for afterwards and old ones for kneeling on.
Waterproof sheets, old sheeting, old towels or newspapers to catch any splashes and protect your carpets if youre having the baby at home.
Drinks energy drinks or fruit juice I found apple juice fantastic for upping the blood sugar levels towards the end.
Why I loved my Water Birth
As Ive already said, water is a very calming, soothing influence on me and I wanted to try and capture and utilize this during my labour as I felt sure being calm myself would help me to cope with the pain of the contractions. From the minute I got in the pool at 5 cm dilated, I instantly felt the pain relief and the effect of the warm, deep water just made such a difference to my ability to cope with the pain. The pool seemed to create this bubble of space, a warm, watery sanctuary which I was alone in and I really was: my partner could have got in with me as the pool was large enough, but I felt happier in there alone. I knew that my supporters my lovely partner and my sister and my midwife were there for me, and the support they gave was infact the most amazing I have ever felt before in my life but having the warm space to retreat into when the pain stopped really helped me zone out, conserve my energy and rediscover my calm inner core ready for the next contraction. I cant say whether the pain would have been worse on land, but I do have to say that coming out of the pool every 4 hours (I only had to do it twice) for an internal exam to check my progress was horrid and I cannot imagine why any women would want to labour on her back, given the chance to do it upright. The pain was definitely much worse in this position, and made me feel really grateful that I would be able to return to the warm sanctuary of the pool as soon as the exam was over.
One thing which I found quite hard when I was labouring was the hard floor of the pool. If I was doing it all again I would have to insist on some towels or the like to kneel on, as because I adopted a hands and knees position during most of my contractions, my knees and hands suffered quite badly my knees particularly still, three weeks on, feel quote bruised and sore. However, the positive aspects of my birthing experience far outweigh the odd few negatives. Being able to change positions easily (the water is deep enough that you can float from one position to the next very easily) was a great help, and especially when it came to the final stages of labour when I was ready to push, and discovered that I really wanted to be squatting when Id spent most of my labour on hands and knees. I seemed to be able to just float around into the right position and from then it seemed only minutes till Eva was born. The support of the water was fantastic, and that, combined with the physical and moral support of my birthing partners, and the confidence I felt in myself that I could do it led me to have the amazing birth that I did.
My Baby Girl and Water
Eva Rose is a sucker for a warm bath. She is the only baby I have ever had the pleasure to meet who doesnt scream the house down on contact with water. She is so blissfully chilled out that not much seems to phase her, and Im sure that she is as contented and calm as she is because of her arrival into the world. When she was born, she came up out of the water onto my tummy and I lifted her closer to me and found these wide blue eyes just staring at me, so intently, so calmly. I have never seen anything so serene in all my life and its a word that we can still use about her she is simply serene. Before she was born I had read that babies born into water are often calm and content pretty much from the word go, but I suppose you never really believe it till you see it. We see it every day in her, and its an absolute joy.
I truly believe my experience of giving birth in water really just validates everything I have ever read on the subject great pain relief: check. Shorter labour absolutely: mine was just under 7 hours long, from being established at 3 cm to delivery of the placenta. Now bearing in mind that I had a natural, un-drugged delivery of my placenta, and it took 1 hour 24 minutes to arrive, so the actual time labouring and giving birth was really about 6 hours. Not bad! Damage below? None. Calm baby? Oh yes, definitely! Happy experience full of great hormones that carried me through the three weeks since I gave birth? Yup. My water baby is the best thing I have ever done, and bringing her into the world is the best time I ever had in a pool full of water, bar none. I cant say more than that. People are always ready to tell you horrid and scary birth stories, but I say dont listen to them. If you are having a baby any time soon then promise me one thing. Dont read the horror stories. Dont listen to the people who want to tell you how horrendous the act of giving birth is. Remember that you are build for the task, that you have the power in you to do the job and do it well. And whether you give birth in water or on land, let the power of it stay with you in the days and months afterwards and remind yourself every day of what a strong and beautiful woman you are to do something so incredibly amazing. I do.
Thank you for reading, Kate x
Giving birth in warm water can help women relax in order to relieve pain such as: backache, aching muscles, strenuous exercise, or menstrual pain. More and more women are turning on the warm water tap during labour and birth.