There is nothing like the thrill of bringing a new life into this world. After nine months of nurturing yourself and providing the perfect environment for your child to develop, the day will arrive for you to deliver your little one. You have decisions to make regarding the best delivery options for you and your growing family. One delivery option that you may wish to consider is a water birth.
A water birth is described as giving birth in a warm tub of water. Some women choose to simply soak in a warm tub during the first part of their labor, then exit the tub to actually deliver their child in a dry environment. Others make the decision to stay in the warm tub throughout the entire delivery. This is referred to as a “true” water birth.
Water births started to become more popular in the United States, in the 1980’s. The first hospital-based water birth wasn’t until 1991. Today, approximately 300 hospitals across the U.S., allow water births within their buildings. The main healthcare providers who support the women who wish to experience a water birth, are nurse practitioners and nurse midwives.
Experiencing a water birth can be a wonderful, peaceful event for some women. Others might find the thought of a water birth uncomfortable or unusual. Whichever side you are on regarding a water birth, is perfectly okay. Your method of delivery is something that is a personal choice, and the decision should be made between yourself and your healthcare provider.
Benefits of a Water Birth
For people who are enthusiastic about a water birth, there are many reasons why they believe this is the best choice for delivery. One of the main reasons why people choose a water birth, is because there is a belief that this is the gentlest transition for the baby; leaving the warm, amniotic fluid-filled sac of the mother’s womb, to an environment of warm water. Pain relief for the mother is another plus for delivering in a tub of warm water. Below is a list of a few other benefits that should be considered.
-Buoyancy in the water allows the woman to move freely and easily; therefore, the mother is more likely to find a comfortable position for labor, and/or delivery.
-Warm water immersion tends to decrease anxiety for the woman, therefore relieving stress and naturally lowering her blood pressure.
-Warm water relaxes the perineum and the vaginal walls, thus promoting an easier delivery and reducing the chance of tearing, which could require an episiotomy and stitches.
Risks Associated with Water Births
Although there are plentiful benefits associated with having a water birth, there are also some significant risks that should be considered. One of the main concerns is the threat of water aspiration. Even though babies continually receive oxygen through the umbilical cord until the cord is severed, there is a chance that the baby could gulp some water, especially if the cord becomes twisted or accidentally snaps. If the baby takes in too much water, it could become a life-threatening situation, very quickly, for the child.
Another risk that is associated with a water birth is the risk of infection. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recognizes Legionnaires’ Disease as one of the potential problems associated with water births. Legionnaires’ Disease is a very serious bacterial pneumonia, that can be life-threatening for a newborn child.
ACOG, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, has also spoken out about water births. They have been promoting the act of labor in a warm tub of water, due to the benefits that are associated with water immersion; however, it is their recommendation that the woman should exit the tub before delivery and actually deliver the child in a dry environment. If you are considering a water birth, it is very important that you discuss the benefits and risks with your personal healthcare professional.
Who Should Consider a Water Birth?
You may wonder if you are a prime candidate for a water birth? Before progressing with your decision, there are some facts to consider.
-Since electronic fetal monitoring is impossible in a tub of water, then it is only recommended that a water birth be performed for low-risk pregnancies.
-Water births are not recommended for women that have had previous C-section deliveries, or previous deliveries that were difficult.
-If you’ve had a pregnancy complication, such as gestational diabetes, then a water birth is not recommended.
-If you are going to deliver multiple babies, such as twins, then a water birth is not recommended.
-If you are a patient with herpes, then a water birth is not the best delivery choice, because the herpes virus can spread easily in water.
-If you are going into preterm labor, then a water birth is not recommended because there is a higher chance that your child will need extra monitoring during delivery, or a visit to the NICU post-delivery.
Location of a Water Birth
If you are interested in a water birth, you may find a little challenge as far as finding a great location. Many hospitals do not routinely perform water births, although some hospitals may allow you to bring in an appropriate tub to use for your water birth. It is important to check with your hospital of choice, early in your pregnancy, so you can make appropriate arrangements with them, if you all agree a water birth within the hospital is reasonable.
You may also be able to find a birthing center that performs water births. A birthing center is a place that provides an alternative to a home or a hospital, especially for low-risk pregnancies. They are geared towards mothers who desire a more natural birthing experience.
Of course, if you are planning to deliver your baby at home, you may plan to use your home tub, especially during the early stages of your labor. You may also want to look into renting or purchasing a tub specifically designed for water births. There are several different types of birthing tubs available on the market. You should check with your health insurance company, because some companies will choose to reimburse you for the price of obtaining a birthing tub.
There are water birth advocacy groups that can assist you when you are on the search for the best place to have a water birth, and other decisions regarding water births. One such group is Waterbirth International. You may wish to contact them if you have questions regarding your water birth.
What Happens During a Water Birth?
Once you have made the decision to have a water birth, it is important to make sure that you have all of the equipment that you need. One thing you will need, in addition to the birthing tub, is a water thermometer. The water in the birthing tub should stay at a constant temperature, in a range of 95-100 degrees. You should also keep a lot of drinking water close-at-hand while in the birthing tub. It is important to stay hydrated throughout your labor.
If your tub is large enough, you may wish for your partner, or labor coach, to enter the tub with you. Remember that it is recommended by many experts, that the safest thing to do when it is actually time to deliver your child, is to exit the tub and experience the delivery in a dry environment.
Pricing Associated with Water Births:
If your circumstances include having a water birth within a hospital, then the cost of having a water birth should not be any more than the cost of a regular vaginal birth. The only difference is the price of purchasing or renting the birthing tub. The average cost of buying or renting the tub is anywhere from $100-$500, depending on the manufacturer and the additional items that come with the tub. A home water birth typically runs a bit cheaper than a hospital or birthing center delivery. A home birth could be about one-third of the price of a hospital birth. The main thing to keep in mind, though, is the safety concerns relating to the mother and to the child.
As you can see, there are a lot of issues to contemplate if you are considering having a water birth for the delivery of your unborn child. If you are someone who feels compelled to experience this method, then you should learn all that you can about water births, and decide if it is the right thing for you and your child.
The benefits are plentiful; such as experiencing a peaceful setting, providing natural pain management during labor, and a gentle transition into this world for your baby. As with any important decision that you will make regarding your child, though, you should investigate all of the risks, as well. It is most important that you are completely informed, so you can do what is best for you and your baby.