Is it safe?
Yes, it's perfectly safe. The baby transitions easily from the amniotic fluid into the water, and then into his/her mother's arms. The baby has a 'dive reflex' that is present until 6-8 months of age. The baby is not stimulated to take its first breath until he/she is in contact with air. Meanwhile the umbilical cord is still providing oxygen and stem cells to the baby until it is clamped. There has been plenty of research conducted on water birth over the years. It's always good to look at the source of any article, the number of people in the study and whether there would be any financial benefit to anyone by the results of the study, to check the accuracy.
What water do I need to use?
Most hospitals use filtered water. 'If you can shower and cook with the water, then it's OK to birth in it', is what a friend once told me. You can also add sea salt or explore other options if it makes you more comfortable. It's good to check with a reliable source such as www.waterbirthinternational.org
Can the baby swallow water and will the baby cry straight away if I opt for delivering my baby in water?
As previously mentioned, the baby does not initiate a breath until it comes into contact with air. Water birth is a gentle and peaceful approach to birthing. Medical interventions should not be carried out in water, such as pain relief, IV fluids, episiotomy etc. When a baby is born in water the mother can assume whichever position she likes and her own hands are often the first to touch her baby. A one minute Apgar score is a general worldwide protocol for checking the well-being of a newborn. Babies born in water have a slightly different scale of scoring as they are often more relaxed. We have all been conditioned by TV and film to expect pink, screaming babies that need stimulation to cry. You can watch some water birth clips on You Tube to see more. I have collected some good ones into a playlist here.
It's gentler and has numerous benefits for Mother and Baby to stay attached, practice delayed cord clamping and cutting etc. Babies thrive in their mother's arms, already recognizing her voice and being close to heartbeat and welcomed is superior to a 'baby warmer' and separation. Humans are the only mammals that interfere with the natural process of birth and bonding.
What are the benefits of delivery in water?
For the mother:
It's easy to change position in water
Water provides great comfort and pain relief
The pool provides a safe and secluded space that increases privacy and dignity
It reduces blood pressure
Being immersed in warm water often speeds up the process, enhancing optimal hormones
Reduces chance of perineal tear (Most women are given an episiotomy at birth which is a cut below the vagina to make additional space for the baby. A tear is a natural process and is usually much smaller than an episiotomy and heals better)
For the baby:
Good oxygen flow from the placenta
Eliminates stress hormones when the mother is relaxed and the oxytocin levels are high
Gentle transition into the world
Immediate skin to skin and bonding
Breastfeeding initiated smoothly
Minimises birth trauma
What mothers have said about birthing in water?
'I wish I had done this for my first birth'
'It was amazing to catch my own baby'
'The water took approximately 60% of the pain away'
'I could feel my baby moving down inside and I knew exactly what to do'
'It felt gentle for my baby'
'I can't believe how fast it was. I had no idea I was so far along'
'I enjoyed the calm atmosphere and I felt safe and supported'
All pictures in this article are original and belong to the author. Reproducing them in any form without the permission of the author will not be allowed.