To my surprise, I recently came across a statement asserting that home birth and water birth were one and the same. While it is true that as a home birth midwife I consider water a great benefit to my clients (as immersion in a birth pool can aid in pain relief), not all clients choose water birth and even some that do choose to get out of the water and give birth outside the birth pool.
The dictionary defines water birth as “a birth in which the mother spends the final stages of labor in a birthing pool, with delivery taking place either in or out of the water.”
At times my prospective clients ask, do I have to have a water birth if I choose a home birth? The answer is simply no!
Now that I have cleared up this misunderstanding, let’s look at the benefits of utilizing water in labor during a home birth:
Offers significant pain relief and promotes relaxation
Promotes mobility and frequent position changes
Helps labor progress quicker
Laboring women enjoy the birth pool as a protected space
These benefits, which I have come to know in my 10 years of doing water births as a home birth midwife are yet another significant reason to choose an out-of-hospital birth.
In my practice, I offer a birth pool to all my clients and promote water birth. We discuss how to set up the pool for the water birth, when to utilize the pool and how to set realistic expectations.
Planning for a Water Birth
The birth pools themselves are designed to be deep for buoyancy, sturdy enough to hold the water, easy to set up and take down, and are made to be sanitized. For home birth, we need to utilize these pools instead of tubs, as they do not give the full benefit of water birth. Tubs can give the benefit of warm water but not the buoyancy and freedom of movement. During my home visit at 36 weeks, I help the couple pick out a space for the birth pool and instruct how to set it up. It’s not rocket science, and my clients are always comfortable when getting ready for a water birth.
As a home birth midwife, I recommend the use of hydrotherapy during the first stage of labor when the labor is active and mom is close to the transition stage of labor. Contractions are strong, close together and laboring moms have to work hard to move through contractions. There is little time between contractions to catch a break from the sensations of labor. When the laboring mom gets into the birth pool we often hear as sigh of relief with the first contraction she is experiencing while in the pool. The heat of the water changes the sensation of the contractions. The laboring mom usually immediately reports that she enjoys being in the birth pool. Because the water reduces the intensity of contractions, the laboring woman experience contractions as more manageable.
By offering water birth to my clients they have the freedom to give birth where they choose. Laboring moms who choose to stay in the water while pushing often give birth in the water. We use a waterproof Doppler so we can easily monitor the baby’s heart tones. I encourage the mom to birth her baby into her own hands. When moms feel their babies emerge, they will push carefully and intuitively protect their perineum. When baby is born, moms lift their babies quickly out of the water. Once baby emerges from the water they often give their first cry.
Some moms are so busy focusing on pushing and working through the sensations in their bodies that they prefer I help with the delivery of their baby.
Most of the moms in my practice utilize water to help them move through the stages of labor. Some women naturally get out of the water when it is time for their babies to be born.
Water for the Win
Water birth is an essential part of my home birth practice. I do believe every woman should have the right, if they choose to, to utilize water in labor. The benefits I have seen in my personal practice are tremendous.
Some women give birth in the water and some choose to give birth out of the water. But the most important part about water birth is that moms have a choice to use the water for the labor and/or birth. As a home birth midwife I am honored to have the experience, knowledge and understanding of water birth to offer this service to my home birth clients.