Welcoming Baby Into Water

As parents today, you have many options when choosing a labor and delivery experience. Whether you choose to welcome your bundle of joy into the world at home, in a birthing center, or in a hospital, a water birth may be the right choice for you and your partner.

Michelle Maffei

Water births are said to benefit both you and baby. “One of the most significant benefits is that that woman becomes more tolerable of the pain and discomfort associated with childbirth,” shares Althea Hrdlichka, birth and postpartum doula. “In many cases, opting for a water birth shortens the woman's labor, makes it much less stressful for her and baby, and provides baby the ability to emerge into the world in a more natural state (in water) therefore making the transition a relaxing and more enjoyable experience for them both.”

Considering this alternative birthing method? Here are the things you will need to know in order to prepare for your water birth.

Before labor

  1. Find a midwife that has experience performing water births
  2. Create a birthing plan and prepare for alternatives should unforeseen complications occur
  3. Make sure your tub is deep enough to fill to armpit level for buoyancy, and is free from water jets and internal pipes, which may harbor unwanted bacteria
  4. Consider purchasing an inflatable kiddie pool or rent a birthing tub from a local birthing center if your tub will not suffice
  5. Check that the birthing room is big enough for the midwife to set up her equipment with plenty of room to maneuver
  6. Inflate and clean tub with non-abrasive cleaner and rinse very thoroughly in advance of the onset of labor
  7. Consider using two different water-drinking hoses to fill and empty the water, along with a submersible pump for draining out the water easily
  8. Make sure that the tap adaptor fits the faucet you will use to fill the tub
  9. Purchase a clean, sterilized fish net to collect debris in the water that may occur during the labor process, like blood clots and mucus
  10. Practice filling the water before hand to determine how long it takes to fill the tub

Go time

  1. Use clean, pure water that is safe enough to drink to fill the tub
  2. Fill the water with allowance for 1”-2” water rise per person, starting with about 9” of water from the top
  3. Set water temp to your personal comfort level, between 95 and 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  4. Drink plenty of fluids and eat food that is light and easily digestible
  5. Wait until contractions are well established, at about 5 cm or at transition when the pain relieving effect will be maximized, to get into the tub
  6. Get into the tub if labor slows down outside of the water, which may stimulate labor; if labor slows down in the tub, get out and move around to get things going again
  7. Experiment with birthing positions, including your partner both in and out of the water if you prefer

Birth moment

  1. Discuss with your birth attendants prior to your delivery on length of time baby should be under the water
  2. Utilize rapid emersion, taking only long enough for you to reach down and pick up the baby yourself (the benefits of a water birth are accomplished as soon as the baby is delivered into the warm water)
  3. Discuss with your birth attendants prior to your delivery whether or not you will birth your placenta in the water

Ultimately the choice to have a water birth is a personal one, so long as your OB/GYN has cleared you of any unique circumstances with your pregnancy that would make it unsafe to do so. With the right preparation, a supportive partner, and a midwife to ensure the safety of your baby-to-be, you can get the most from this natural birthing method.

More birthing tips:

-- The wonderful world of water births

-- Real birth story: Calvin - A water birth

-- Healthy pregnant moms have choices: Benefits of midwives and out-of-hospital births

-- A midwives perspective: Labor and birth in the water

-- 8 Ways to naturally manage labor pains during childbirth


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