The idea of a water birth has always appealed to me. I feel like I have an affinity for water. As a kid I would spend every day of summer floating at the pool or the beach. As an adult I chose to be a lifeguard for ten years. I like water. I am lucky enough to live near a hospital with a tub in the maternity wing, so it was a very real option for me. I ended up labouring in the water with Toddler Girl and pushing her out on the bed, but Wonder Baby was born into the water. I caught her with my own two hands and held her close to my chest. You can read about their births here and here, but today I want to tell you about having a water birth. Here are some of the things I had read about having a baby in the water and how they turned out in my experience.
Labouring in the water helps with pain management
As a lifeguard I had noticed that even when I had bad period cramps they were eased considerably by being in the water, so I was a firm believer in this before I went into labour. I found it to be very true; something about the warm water just eases things a little. Not that it becomes easy, exactly, but when I slipped into the tub I relaxed a little. It was also easier to find a position that I felt worked. I was mostly on my knees holding Mr SH's hands, which is a hard position to maintain on land. Sometimes, if your labour isn't really going strongly, this relaxation can slow you down, but this wasn't the case for me.
Pushing in the water reduces your chances of tearing badly
I pushed TG out on land and tore pretty decently. They took an hour to stitch me up. Nasty. With Wonder Baby, delivering into the water, all I had was "rugburn" and no stitches at all. They say that it has to do with increased blood flow and the warm temperature, it softens the perineum. However, she was also my second baby as well, and the second time tends to be easier.
Delivering into the water gives a more peaceful transition into the world
Now this one I thought was interesting. Apparently it's because they are going from one warm liquidy environment into another, instead of the cold air. It's supposed to be more peaceful and supposedly babies cry less. This was completely true for Wonder Baby, she just opened her eyes and looked at me, completely peaceful. It was the only reason she didn't get perfect Apgar scores for the first set. She was completely healthy and alert, but not upset. Amazing.
I had a really great experience with my water birth, here are some more thoughts on why it went well:
- I had a midwife who was very comfortable and experienced with water birthing. I knew that she had our safety first on her mind and that she knew what she was doing. I was willing to get out of the tub if she felt it was best, so I felt very confident that I was in capable hands.
- I was in a hospital tub, not an inflatable. This meant that it was very easy for them to keep the temperature regulated, which is important. It was like a normal bathtub, but bigger and had its end against the wall so the nurse and midwife (and Mr SH) could help me from whatever side was easiest. The harder sides also made it easier to find a solid pushing position, although I would have liked a bar or handrails ideally.
- I was cleaner when we were done. Birthing is kinda...fluidy. I won't get into the details, because I mostly tried not to think about it, but the nurse kept the tub water clean and we were both fairly clean when we got out, instead of being all sticky and sweaty and bloody and whatnot.
- I was strep B positive, so I had to have antibiotics during labour. However, it was a dose before I got in the tub, and then they took the line out (I still had the needle thing in my hand). I only ended up needing one dose as I had a quick labour, so that was no big thing (as far as the water birth went anyway. The IV totally sucked, but I'm a pansy for needles). If I had been planning a home water birth I might not have been able to, as I needed a nurse for the antibiotics.
- I was a healthy and had no complications going into labour. A nurse was able to use the fetal heartbeat monitor (the kind with a wand? I really wasn't paying attention) while I was in the tub which was enough to ensure that we were doing well.
So yes, I loved my water birth. I recommend it to all the pregnant girls I talk to. If you have any questions about something I forgot to cover, leave a comment!
Would you ever consider a water birth?