The benefits of a waterbirth
As an experienced midwife, I have found that many women are now actively choosing a water birth delivery because they want a relaxing and comfortable birth experience. They often prefer the natural setting and environment of warm water and want to bring this feeling into the birthing environment.
It was in the early 1990s that water births began to be accepted and became more popular amongst pregnant women around the world. I began working in an independent birth centre, it was the first centre in Berlin to offer water births. It was such an amazing experience to see babies born in the water first-hand. After this, hospitals started to follow suit as the demand for waterbirths and the popularity in this method started to increase.
You do not necessarily need to have access to a specific birthing bath to feel the effectiveness and healing power of water during labour. I can endorse the effectiveness of taking a bath or a shower, especially when labour is progressing.
Can water births reduce pain in labour?
Water in various guises really is the number one pain relief in labour. It was when I was working in Australia that I was made aware of this. Many, many women asked for a bath to be run when they were admitted in labour. Some of them did not have access to huge amounts of hot water at home, so they enjoyed the unlimited amounts of it at the birthing centre. (Rental pools for a home water birth are absolutely wonderful, but if you live on an upper floor, you need to check that it will be strong enough to support a home birthing pool.)
Using a hot water bottle can also be effective and to use this for comfort when labour starts, and you feel the first contractions happening. Hopefully, most women will still have a hot water bottle at home! It can bring great pain relief and can be placed wherever you are feeling the contractions. When you experience discomfort, it’s a good idea to move around until you find the best position and to place a hot water bottle where relief is most needed. It may be simple and low-tech, but it works really well!
Even when I did my training in a large women’s hospital in the south of Germany in the 1980s, we would invite every woman in labour to take a bath, just to get her more relaxed. I can’t emphasise enough the benefits of water at this time. Even if you think it is not for you, I can assure you that just relaxing in a warm bath or on a birthing ball with a warm shower running over you can result in your cervix opening up amazingly.
Benefits of waterbirth for the Mother:
- Reduces discomfort associated with contractions
- Relaxed pelvic floor muscles, allowing for a smoother, less painful delivery
- Helps to release endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain-reducing hormones
- Provides mobility and freedom for several birthing positions
- Speed up labour in a natural way
- Reduces blood pressure
- Gives you a greater feeling of control
- Provides natural pain relief
- Promotes relaxation throughout the body
- Conserves your energy
- Reduces the need for medical pain relief and intervention
- Provides a private and protected space
- Reduces perineal trauma and the need for episiotomies
- Reduces rates of C-section
- Highly rated by experienced providers of birthing services
- Highly valued by mothers
Benefits of waterbirth for the baby:
- Keeps tummy temperature warm, preventing the need for an oxygen mask and possible breathing difficulties
- Allows for a gentler transition as the baby is slowly and smoothly exposed to the world outside the womb
- Soothing for the baby, as the sound of the water is similar to a mother’s heartbeat
- Allows for a more peaceful introduction of the baby to the outside world
- Provides an easier transition of oxygen from the placenta
And finally, adding water to your birthing space creates a calmer environment overall – Placing a pool of water in a delivery room immediately changes the atmosphere: voices get softer, everyone becomes less stressed and the mother remains calmer.
The effect of buoyancy that deep water immersion creates allows the mother to move spontaneously. No one has to help her get into a new position. She moves as her body and the position of the baby dictate, and that movement helps open the pelvis, allowing the baby to descend. A neck pillow is useful for getting really comfortable in the birthing pool, so you might want to check whether the centre or the hospital you are booked into will provide one, and if not, supply one yourself.
When a woman in labour relaxes in a warm deep bath, free from gravity’s pull on her body, with sensory stimulation reduced, her body is less likely to secrete stress-related hormones. This allows her body to produce the pain inhibitors – endorphins – that complement labour. Noradrenaline and catecholamines, the hormones that are released during stress, actually raise blood pressure and can inhibit or slow labour, so anything that prevents stress is to be encouraged. A woman in labour who is able to relax physically can relax mentally as well. Many women, midwives, and doctors acknowledge the analgesic effect of water.
Involving your birth partner
Among the many useful tasks that your birth partner should stand ready to carry out (including supporting you in different positions and providing regular food and drink) are running baths when you need them, preparing hot water bottles – and applying them to the parts of your body where they will be most soothing!
Final thoughts from Jutta
Overall, I can honestly say that a waterbirth provides an empowering and calming experience for the whole family. Opting for a waterbirth will allow you, as the mother to give birth the way you wish, embracing the natural power of your body and entering her birthing experience with confidence.
Hey, let’s talk! As an experienced, international midwife I have had the privilege of helping deliver thousands of babies into the world through waterbirths. Feel free to reach out to me directly for more advice on this subject or feel free to book a call for a private consultation.