Water births are gaining in popularity, although some people still consider them to be rather unconventional! I personally believe water birthing gives the mother, baby and partner the best possible experience.
Far from being an "unconventional birthing method" according to OK! Magazine, water birthing has been around for many years.
In fact, I was the first doctor to do a water birth in a London hospital in the eighties.
It might sound like an odd idea; giving birth in a paddling pool or large bath, but there are actually many benefits.
- Being in water allows the mother free range of movement, especially compared with lying on a hospital bed, with legs in stirrups!
- The water is a great medium that provides muscle relaxation. This muscle relaxation helps the cervix to dilate rapidly.
- The water also gives the mother the ability to relax better between contractions. The baby enjoys emerging into the warm water that is welcoming and gives the baby a sense of a soft welcome into the world.
- Warm water can reduce the pain of contractions. Mothers who have a water birth are less likely to need pain relieving drugs. Water birthing is much safer than having an epidural, and it doesn't harm the baby.
- The water supports the mother, helping her to feel weightless, save energy and also to move around and change position during labour.
- The pool is a calming, relaxing place away where the mother and her partner can relax and mothers who use a birthing pool tend to feel less stress. The more relaxed the mother, the more efficient labour is likely to be.
- Partners may also bond better with the mother during labour, because the whole experience is less stressful. A happy birth experience enhances the ability of the mother and father to bond with the baby.
- Women who have a water birth are also less likely to tear because the tissues are softer and more relaxed in water.
- Baby emerges into water, happy, calm and relaxed!
It's important to remember, however, that a successful water-birth requires preparation throughout the entire pregnancy. The mother's pelvic tissues need to be clear, light and as soft as jelly so that the baby finds it easy to engage and descend down the birth passage easily. This kind of preparation is important for around 80% of women, with diet and lifestyle changes helping to soften the tissues.
If you're pregnant, and looking for a gentle birth experience, why not ask your midwife about water birthing. I promise, you, your partner and your baby won't regret it!