Many women are opting for waterbirth, and fortunately some of our maternity units are now supporting waterbirth, owing in part to the NSW Health Towards Normal Birth Policy. Why are more women choosing waterbirth?
- Pain relief - water is great at assisting with the sensations of labour. I have heard women who have had an epidural with their first baby and a waterbirth with their second, say that they much prefer their waterbirth.
- Pain relief without adverse effects. There are no side effects of a water birth.
- A gentle birth for baby. The baby goes from a warm, fluid environment in the uterus, to a warm, fluid environment in the bath, before coming into air. Waterborn babies tend to be calmer and more relaxed at birth, and often do not cry.
- Softening of the perineum can help protect it from tears and episiotomy.
- Some evidence has suggested that women who labour in the bath tend to have shorter labours than women who labour out of the bath.
Water birth is safe with a midwife who is skilled at facilitating water birth. It is important to ensure that the practical aspects are taken care of: you will need more towels for a water birth, both for you and for baby. If you are having a home waterbirth, I usually recommend that women have a plastic sheet under the birth pool and then surround the pool with towels. In this way, you can protect carpet and flooring as you step in and out of the pool.
The temperature of the pool should be maintained at body temperature so that the baby doesn't enter water that is too hot or too cold, and so that the woman's temperature is maintained.
Hydration is important in the pool, and dehydration tends to be more common amongst women who are labouring in the birth pool. Your midwife will check your temperature more frequently if you are in the pool, and will offer fluids between every contraction.