Water Birth - what are the benefits?

Published: 20/10/2023

Water birth is a childbirth method that has gained popularity in recent years as an alternative to traditional labour and delivery in a hospital setting. This approach involves giving birth in a specially designed birthing pool, with the expectant mother partially submerged in warm water.  Advocates of water birth claim that it offers numerous benefits, including pain relief and a more relaxed birthing experience. In this article, we will explore the advantages and considerations of water birth.

A midwife can support you in using the birthing pool at home or in the birth centre/delivery suite of your chosen hospital. Using a birthing pool or having a water birth can increase your chances of a normal vaginal delivery. 

What are the advantages of a water birth?

  • Less painful contractions: The warm water helps to relax the body's muscles and provides a soothing effect, reducing the intensity of contractions and making labour more bearable.  
  • Less need for other methods of pain relief: Many women who opt for water birth experience fewer medical interventions during labour, such as the use of epidurals or medications to induce or speed up labour. This aligns with the desire of many mothers for a more natural birthing process.
  • Shorter labour: studies have suggested it shortens the length of labour. 
  • More enjoyable experience: Immersion in water can promote a sense of relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety during labour. The calming effect of water helps labouring mothers feel more at ease, which can contribute to a smoother and less painful birthing experience. 
  • Feeling in control in achieving a calm birth of your baby: Babies are surrounded by amniotic fluid in the womb, so transitioning into a warm birthing pool can be a gentle and familiar experience for them. This can lead to a less traumatic entry into the world.

How does water help in a water birth?

  • The water supports your weight allowing you to feel buoyant therefore making it easier for you to mobilise and aiding in your comfort thus conserving your energy - many women find the buoyancy of the water to be particularly helpful in alleviating back pain during labour.
  • The relaxing effect of the water also helps in producing endorphins and promoting the body’s natural pain relief mechanism.
  • The warm water is thought to increase the stretching of perineal muscles and reduce the risk of tearing during delivery. 

Who can have a water birth?

The exact specifics and requirements can differ from hospital to hospital but generally if you have had a low-risk healthy pregnancy and are having only one baby then it may be offered to you. Health conditions, complications, or medical risks may exclude some women from this option. It's essential to consult with a healthcare provider to determine whether water birth is a safe choice.

You can get in and out of the pool as much as you want to during labour. You can also give birth in the pool; the midwife will use a hands-off approach to help you deliver your baby. The water temperature is monitored carefully to ensure the environment is right and to make sure that the baby’s breathing reflex is not triggered too early. 

Can you have additional pain relief whilst having a water birth? 

Breathing, relaxation techniques, massage and music are good coping strategies. Gas and air (Entonox) is also available whilst in the pool. You can’t however have an opiate pain relief such as pethidine or diamorphine as these may make you drowsy whilst in the pool. You are also unable to have an epidural. 

Water birth is very safe, and evidence suggests that there are many advantages to giving birth in the water. Clinical hospital guidelines are followed so that staff minimise any risks and take precautions to ensure the safety of the mother and baby. 

Water birth is a birthing option that offers several potential benefits, including pain relief, relaxation, and increased mobility. However, it is not suitable for everyone, and careful consideration of the associated precautions and eligibility criteria is necessary. Expectant mothers interested in water birth should engage in open communication with their healthcare providers to make an informed decision about their birthing experience.

myTamarin Support

If you have access to myTamarin 1-1 fertility support book a call with one of our experts who would be very happy to discuss different birthing options with you.

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