Curious about giving birth in water? We have all the information you need…
What is a water birth?
A water birth is when you deliver your baby in a birthing pool. This can be on a labour ward, in a birth centre or at home, using a hired birthing pool. Water is typically very comforting and relaxing for pregnant women; it helps support your weight, making it easier to move around during labour, and can help with pain.
Who can have a water birth?
Unfortunately, water births aren’t a safe option for everyone. You must have had a low-risk pregnancy and your midwife and obstetrician need to agree that it’s safe for you and your baby.
Some reasons you may not be able to have a water birth include:
- You have pre-eclampsia
- Your labour is induced
- Your waters have been broken for over 24 hours
- Your baby is pre-term (under 37 weeks)
- Your baby is breech
What are the advantages of a water birth?
Water makes you feel weightless – a rare feat in pregnancy!– so it enables you to move around and get into different labouring positions more easily. Being upright in the water also lets gravity do its job to help move the baby towards the birth canal. The feeling of the water itself can help soothe and comfort – many women say they feel cocooned and safe in the pool – and it can help with back pain during labour too.
Being in a birthing pool does reduce your options when it comes to pain relief – opiates, such a pethidine, should be avoided and an epidural is not possible. There is the potential for contractions to slow down, and you may need to get out of the pool if there are any complications during birth.If you plan on having a home water birth, the cost of hiring a birthing pool needs to be considered too.
What temperature is the water?
The water temperature should not exceed 37.5°C. Your midwife will monitor the temperature to make sure the water doesn’t get too warm or too cold for you and baby.
What should I wear?
It really is up to you. Some women choose to wear a bikini top or bra, others prefer a t-shirt or vest, and some prefer to be naked. You can wear pants or bikini bottoms during labour if you wish, but it’s best to remove these so your midwife can see what’s happening as you get closer to birthing your baby.
Can I get out if I want?
Absolutely. You might want to get out if labour has slowed(walking around can help get things going again), go to the toilet or for extra pain relief. You can return to the birthing pool or stay out to give birth, it’s up to you. Even if you’ve specified you want a water birth in your birth plan, you can change your mind if it doesn’t feel right for you at the time.
In some instances, your midwife will suggest you get out of the water if they are concerned about you or your baby’s safety. This could include things like you developing a high temperature, bleeding from the vagina, meconium (baby’s poo) in the water or changes in baby’s heart rate.
What pain relief can I use during a water birth?
Gas and air (Entonox) is safe to use when in a birthing pool.
Is it safe for my baby to be born in water?
Some mums-to-be worry that their baby might drown if they give birth under water, but this isn’t the case. Once your baby is born, your midwife will gently bring them to the surface of the water – they will only take their first breath once they are above the surface.
Do I birth my placenta in the pool?
It's likely your midwife will ask you to get out of the pool to deliver the placenta. This is just for your safety as it's common to feel lightheaded after giving birth and can be difficult to get you out of the birthing pool in a quick emergency.
Written by our guest blogger, Sarah Dawson.
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