by Sally Cameron, midwife, mother of 2 and co-owner of www.earthbabies.co.za . I am passionate, creative, trying to be Green unschooling single mom. It’s a journey.
The idea of birthing a baby into water has been around for quite a long time but was made popular by a French obstetrician Michel Odent in the 70’s and was the first to publish and article in a medical journal on the use of birthing pools. Having had two home waterbirths myself and been present as a midwife at others, it is a way of birthing that I really believe is of great benefit to the mother and the baby. If researching birth options it is really one worth look at.
Benefits of waterbirth:
1) Allows the mother greater comfort and mobility, it is easy to change positions in the water
2) Reduction of pressure on the abdomen. Buoyancy promotes more efficient uterine contractions and better blood circulation, resulting in better oxygenation of the uterine muscles, less pain for the mother, and more oxygen for the baby.
3) Helps the mother save energy, the water supports her weight so that her energy can be used to cope with the contractions.
4) Relaxes the mother, the more she relaxes the more effectively she dilates and labour time is reduced.
5) Relaxes pelvic floor muscles.
6) Less need for pain medication in labour, the water stimulates the touch and temperature nerve fibres in the skin, this helps to block the sensation from the pain fibres – known as the gate theory of pain
7) The water and being surrounded by the pool creates a safe, cocoon like environment where a woman can let go of her surrounding and focus inward.
8) Has been proven to help speed up a slow first stage of labour.
9) Helps lower blood pressure, especially if the increase was due to anxiety.
10) Give the mother the chance to birth upright and in a position she is comfortable with
11) Birth partner can be very involved in the birth, some choose to be in the pool, others support from the side.
12) Pushing stage is often shorter
13) Gentle introduction into the world for the baby.
14) A mother with a good birth experience and a baby with an easy non traumatic entry into the world have the best start together.
15) The warm water softens the vagina, vulva, and perineum, leading to less tearing and need for stitches.
The most common concern that is usually raised about waterbirth is about the baby drowning. Babies only breathe when they receive stimulation like cold air on their skin, if the baby is born into warm body temperature water; there is no stimulus to start the breathing process. This only happen when the baby’s body is born and the baby is brought up to the surface.
If you are interested in have a waterbirth the best option may be to find an active birthing unit with a private midwife as they usually have the most experience in waterbirths. You can also choose to have a waterbirth at home with a midwife attending the birth. For more information on waterbirth you can visit our website www.earthbabies.co.za