"Women are like tea bags. You put them in hot water and they get stronger."
- Eleanor Roosevelt
Women the world over have used water in birth. In fact, in England, the House of Commons health committee on maternity services has recommended that all hospitals provide birthing pool facilities for laboring women.
Why is water so great?
It eases the pain. Warm water is so effective in reducing the pain of labor that many midwives refer to it as “the natural birth epidural.” Water encourages the production of endorphins, nature’s own painkillers. Endorphins produce a sense of well-being which helps you tolerate the physical pain and stops you from feeling overwhelmed by the experience. As one mother said: “When I got into the water, it seemed like contractions had stopped. I realized after a while that they hadn’t, they were just so much more manageable. It eased the pain so much.”
It helps you relax. Warm water relaxes you and your muscles, and relaxation is key to lessening pain and having a great birth experience. Because water relaxes pelvic floor muscles, it is easier for the baby to pass through the birth canal, which may shorten labor.
It frees you from gravity and allows you to adopt the best laboring position. The sheer bulkiness of being nine months pregnant can make it difficult to adopt different positions on dry land. Water erases the force of gravity and makes it easier to move and change positions. Your muscles don’t have to support your body so it is less tiring and easier to stay in a comfortable position.
It reduces the chance of fetal distress. The key to avoiding fetal distress is ensuring plenty of oxygen gets to the uterus. Laboring in water helps to maximize the oxygenated blood supply to the uterus in several ways:
Won’t the baby drown?
No. Babies have chemoreceptors around their mouth which initiate the normal breathing response at birth. These chemoreceptors are only activated by contact with air. Even with a delay between the birth of the head and the body, the baby will not breathe while under water. In addition, the umbilical cord is still supplying all the oxygen the baby needs, just as it did in utero. Of course, if the baby is kept under water for an extended period after it is born, eventually the placenta will stop functioning and the baby will gasp for air, even without chemoreceptor stimulation. So babies should always be brought to the surface immediately after birth. As long as they are, there is no danger of drowning. Of course, if you’re still concerned, you can always leave the tub to deliver the baby. You’ll still have benefitted from using the water for your labor.
What about infection?
Studies have shown there is no increased infection risk when women labor or birth in water, even if their bag of waters has broken.
What is the tub like?
BetterBirth’s birthing tub for home births is like a large hot tub, only better. It measures five feet in diameter, and is 26 inches deep. There’s plenty of room to float, move around, adopt any position, and even have your partner join you if you like. It’s inflatable so it's soft and you’ll be absolutely comfortable. The form-fit disposable liner ensures sanitation.
The tubs at our birth centers are specially-designed for both sanitation and comfort. The jets are designed so that they can be cleaned and sanitized (unlike regular jetted tubs which can harbor stagnant water, bacteria, and mold). The jets are whisper quiet. (Noisy jets are very annoying in labor!)
Don’t worry about monitoring the baby while in the tub. With either tub your midwife will use an underwater doppler so the baby’s condition can be monitored without you having to raise up out of the water.
You get incredible service.
At the birth center your provider and staff will take care of the tub for you. If you are using one of our tubs at home, you’ll take the tub home with you a couple of weeks before you're due. Then you can set it up or wait until we get there and we'll set it up for you. When you are finished using it, we’ll empty it, clean it, take it down, and take it away. You’ll have no fuss and no work. You can concentrate on having a beautiful birth experience.
How much does it cost?
A water birth is included in all BetterBirth packages, whether you are birthing at one of our birth centers or at home.