In light of the publication of recent articles that report the growing demand from women around the world who want to have a natural, drug free, non-medicalised birth (Weiss 2014 and Gilbert 2015) we need to look at ways to help them have this experience.
If they are not going be reliant on analgesia for pain relief they need options to help them cope with the pain to allow a physiological labor to unfold.
Immersion in warm water has been unequivocally proven to be of great benefit both physiologically and psychologically.
It is not important if the baby is born in water.
In fact, water birth should be de-emphasised as it is a controversial issue in many parts of the world.
The key point and main benefit that needs to be made and focused on is how women who enter a warm pool of water in established labour with strong contractions find that they are able to cope with the pain and have a natural birth.
Women have a greater sense of fulfillment and accomplishment and babies experience a non-traumatic birth.
Aside from the obvious benefits to mothers and babies, midwives experience greater job satisfaction and hospitals save money and optimise resources from the reduced use of analgesia, medical intervention and shorter hospital stays.
Nearly a third of women benefited from the use of a water birth pool in the UK in 2014 (National Maternity Survey 2014).
With up to 60% of mothers open to natural birth now is the time for midwives, obstetricians and hospitals to consider making this safe, low cost option available.
Studies have shown that upright labour positions are associated with a reduced second stage, fewer episiotomies or instrumental intervention in contrast to mothers labouring on their backs. (Gupta, Hofmeyr and Shehmar 2012 and Gupta and Nikodem 2000).
Many women also feel empowered in an upright position, and experience a sense of control over their labour (Balaskas 2001).
On land women need to contend with the force of gravity that limits their ability to assume upright postures especially as labour progresses and they feel tired.
Many women do not have the fitness or stamina to maintain upright postures for lengths of time. (Gupta JK, Hofmeyr GJ, Smyth R 2007).
The transition from the land to water helps revive and energise the mother giving her a new lease on life and sense of purpose.
The buoyancy of water supports the mother reducing her relative weight by approx. 33% (Archimedes Principle) allowing her to easily explore the full range of beneficial upright positions in comfort and move in ways that were not possible on land.
The calming, relaxing effect of the warm water promotes the flow of oxytocin, a powerful hormone that plays a huge role in childbirth, causing the uterus to contract and triggering the ‘fetal ejection reflex’.
Michel Odent has expounded upon the beneficial physiological effect that immersion in water during labour has on hormone secretion, including observations that women entering warm water experience oxytocin surges which can advance dilation and stimulate contractions (Odent 2014).
The space, depth and design features of Active Birth Pools allow women to move freely to find and be supported in the upright positions that are most comfortable and beneficial for a physiological labor to unfold.