Way back in 1988 I was in labour with my 2nd son.
I attended the hospital at 4cm dilated, I knew I had a way to go and I knew that labour would grow more intense. Luckily for me I was cared for by 2 young midwives who had just been introduced to the concept of labouring in water.
They had studied birth guru Michelle Odents work on this topic and were keen to try out this method of coping with labour surges during the first and second stage of childbirth. Odent (1990) realised our primal connection with water and he and a few other birth pioneers undertook research and studies that would offer women a natural and primal coping strategy for labour.
Back in the labour suite, my midwives suggested I use the big bath to immerse in whilst in labour. So I submerged myself in the water, ensuring it covered my heaving tummy, I became calm, comfortable and warm.
The water lapped over me and the respite from labour was amazing. I had the perfect outcome a natural birth with no other pain relief. I did not deliver in the bath that had not been researched back then in the UK but I will tell you this labour was so much easier.
As a midwife I have been determined to promote and use this form of coping with childbirth. I attended study days with Dianne Garland a midwife who had helped bring this dynamic childbirth strategy into UK NHS hospitals, she trained and encouraged midwives to offer waterbirth and this heralded the way for birthing centres to be built and equipped with birth pools.
Like the one in this picture which is in the new Greenwich birth centre, the environment is amazing and so conducive to producing a normal outcome for women.
Many of my clients want to get to grips with this form of coping with childbirth. In the 21st century midwives all over the world understand how immersion in water can act like natures epidural.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) issued guidelines on immersion in water for labour & childbirth in 2012. The evidence has been explored and studies demonstrate that women who immerse themselves in water during labour, experience feelings of relaxation, pain relief, warmth and being in control (RCM 2012).
The research shows that women have less intervention, more women end up with a natural birth and the statistics show that these women have a higher incidence of an intact perineum; no stitches how about that for a great incentive!
The biggest concern women have is over delivering their baby in the water. I have attended many such births, baby’s born under water and bought gently to the surface by their mother. Women who deliver in the water basically deliver their own baby, the midwife acts as a guide, and mother and baby work in unison.
The second stage of labour appears shorter and babies app ear to be calmer at birth. Mother cradles her baby, keeping baby’s body immersed ensuring that their head is above the water line resting on mother’s breast listening to her heartbeat, which acts as reassurance and helps baby maintain a good temperature and initiates calm and relaxed breathing.
These births are always calm, the lights are usually dimmed and their maybe relaxation music playing in the back ground.
However if you do not feel comfortable delivering your baby in the water then you are more than welcome to get out of the pool and move around. Maybe you would like to deliver in an upright position or on all fours, however you want to deliver is fine as long as you and baby appear well and the midwife is able to listen to the heartbeat throughout the 2nd stage of labour.
Water can and does reduce the intense feelings associated with childbirth. feeling relaxed will help produce oxytocin which will help labour along. A relaxed mother will help baby through its journey into the world.
Many UK hospitals are now planning and building birthing centres. My practice was so much more enjoyable seeing a women in her natural state as opposed to being trapped on a bed unable to move because she had taken the offer of an epidural. I know that water is natures epidural and I feel more comfortable practicing when I have access to a birthing pool.
If you choose to have a baby at home there are many companies that provide the full birth pool kit for home use like birth pool in a box. If you are planning a home birth then I would suggest sourcing your waterbirth equipment from around 28 weeks they can be delivered from 37 weeks. Combine a birthing pool with other natural childbirth remedies. See my Coping with Childbirth Blog for more tips.
Please understand that I feel the key to a great birthing outcome lies with the mind and not always with the body. Being well prepared and understanding the nature of your body will help both you and your baby.
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