Reasons to consider water immersion for labour and birth
The use of water for labour and birth is well recognised as an effective way to reduce the need for medical pain relief and to promote physiological labour, regardless of whether the woman actually plans to give birth into the water or not.
Because of the benefits of water for labour and birth, most hospitals and birth centres are now equipped with built in birth pools, and a lot of midwifery practices have their own portable pools that they loan to their clients.
Using a birth pool in labour is a common option in New Zealand and is still gaining in popularity.
1. Immersion in water provides pain relief without the risk of potential side effects that come with most medical pain relief options.
2. Promotes deeper relaxation and reduces anxiety, which in turn facilitates the flow of birth hormones so that labour can progress normally.
3. Being in a birth pool provides an environment where the labouring woman has her own space that no-one else can enter (except her partner if that is what they choose).
4. Reduces the likelihood of requiring medical pain relief.
5. The feeling of weightlessness allows the woman to move freely and with less effort.
6. Water relaxes and softens the skin of the vulva and perineum which may reduce the likelihood of tearing.
7. Immersion in water provides a shroud of privacy, which reduces the likelihood of being touched unexpectedly during the birth of the baby.
8. When a woman labours in water she will change positions frequently, this will help relieve tension in her body and will help the descent of the baby through the pelvis and birth canal.
9. May help to reduce high blood pressure.
10. Women who labour in water will naturally use upright birth positions, which will help the process of physiological labour.
11. Buoyancy helps with a smooth transition during position changes.
12. Immersion in water can help the labouring woman to conserve her energy because her weight is supported by the water, rather than by her muscles.
13. It is easier to achieve a ‘hands free’ / ‘hands poised’ birth when the labouring woman gives birth into the water.
14. May speed up a slow labour or reduce the length of labour, which in turn may reduce the likelihood of augmentation.
15. Easy clean up afterwards, because the ‘mess’ is contained in the birth pool.
16. May help the labouring woman to feel less inhibited during the pushing phase of labour, and may shorten the pushing phase.
17. The warm water gives baby a gentle transition to life outside the womb.
18. May reduce post birth bleeding.
19. Partners may feel more confident in their role of ‘catching’ the baby because of the reduced fear of dropping the baby.
20. The water pressure on the labouring woman’s body can increase blood circulation to the vital organs (heart, lungs, brain and uterus).
21. Women may have an overall more positive birth experience, due to the above benefits.