Posted 23 Jan 2023
Water birth is an option available to women who are seeking a natural and comfortable birth experience.
The idea of giving birth in water has existed for centuries, but it wasn’t until the late 20th century that it began to gain more acceptance and popularity. Women who are wanting a home birth may purchase or rent a birthing pool and many hospitals and birth centres now offer water birth as an option, and the benefits of this type of birth have been well-documented.
Reduced pain and discomfort during labour are one of the main advantages of water birth. The warm water in the birthing pool relaxes the muscles and eases pain, making the birthing experience more comfortable for the mother. Additionally, the buoyancy provided by the water reduces pressure on the mother’s back and pelvic area, which supports easing pain and discomfort.
The Privacy the birthing pool can create is another benefit of water birth. The mother is surrounded by warm water and the edge of the birthing pool or tub creates a physical barrier between her and others allowing the mother to be given space if she needs it. This and with the sound of her own breathing, creates a sense of calm and serenity. By giving her more autonomy and power over her own body she can settle into her birthing experience. This allows her to release, relax and open up.
Water birth also provides a safe and comfortable environment for the baby. The baby is born from the warm environment of amniotic fluid into a warm and comfortable environment of water, which is thought to reduce stress and trauma for the newborn. Additionally, the buoyancy of the water is believed to ease the baby’s descent through the birth canal, making for an easier and less traumatic birth for the baby.
Efficiency in the birthing experience is also a benefit of water birth. The warm water in the birthing pool is thought to soften and open the cervix, which can support in shortening the length of 1st stage of labour and restarting contractions that have slowed down or stalled. Additionally, studies have shown that the use of water immersion during labour and birth, reduced the need for interventions such as forceps, episiotomies or vacuum extractions, making birth safer and more comfortable for mother and baby.
One of the leading advocates for water birth is French obstetrician Dr Michel Odent.
Dr Odent has been researching and promoting the benefits of water birth for over four decades. He was one of the first to introduce the concept of giving birth in water to the Western world and has been instrumental in promoting the safety and benefits of water birth.
Dr Odent’s research has shown that water immersion during labour can have a number of positive effects on the birthing experience. His studies have found that women who give birth in water experience less pain and discomfort, have shorter labour, and are less likely to need interventions. Additionally, Dr. Odent’s research has also shown that babies born in water are less likely to experience distress during birth, and are more likely to have a healthy Apgar score (The Apgar score is a measure of a baby’s condition after birth).
Dr. Odent has also noted the positive impact that water birth can have on the bonding process between mother and baby. He believes that being in the water can create a sense of closeness and intimacy, as the mother and baby are in direct contact with each other from the moment of birth. This promotes bonding and attachment between the mother and baby.
Furthermore, Dr. Odent has also documented that water immersion during labour can also have a positive effect on the mother’s mental and emotional state. He found that women who give birth in water are less likely to experience fear and anxiety during labour and are more likely to have a positive birth experience.
Dr. Michel Odent’s research on water birth is widely available and can be found in various publications.
In conclusion, water birth is an option with many benefits such as reduced pain and discomfort, privacy, mother-baby bonding, shorter labouring, and a safe and comfortable environment for the baby. Water birth is considered safe for most women, including those with low-risk pregnancies.
If water birth is an option you would love to implement into your birthing experience, connect with your caregiver team to discuss your options and whether a birthing tub is available at your chosen hospital and in alignment for you.
Here is a great book as a resource on water birth: The Water Birth Book: The Ideal Companion to Hypnobirthing and Active Birth
If you would love to learn other options and natural ways your environment can support you in having a positive birth experience reach out here for a complimentary session where together we will workout your most aligned options.