There are many ways and places in which a baby can be born, including in water. One of the most significant reasons behind the choice of water birth is for ease in labour. Each and every birth has its own unique story and what works for one family will not necessarily work for another. One particularly unique birth story very recently went viral. For those considering a water birth you might want to read this inspiring page:
The story is about how a couple chose to deliver their baby in the Red Sea. Yes, in the Sea!
It seems that this birth was pre-planned with reports of a doctor specialising in water births being present. Followers on social media had nothing but praise to offer, acknowledging the beauty and ease of the captured moments. What stunning photographs to look back on and show their children when they are old enough to understand.
TV Personality Sam Faiers (The only way is Essex), recently shared her own water birth experience on Instagram (@samanthafaiers). Sam allowed cameras into her home and gave birth on ‘Mummy Diaries’ leaving viewers in tears during emotional scenes. Reminiscing about her ‘amazing’ home water birth, she posted a photo of her resting in the pool with baby Rosie. A live chat with herself and her midwife took place on her page as she welcomed any pregnancy or birth-related questions.
Over 600 comments and questions were shared, from advice about what pain relief is allowed at home to those considering water birth and asking what makes it ‘better’. Some people shared their own experiences and highly recommended water birth as an option as it creates ‘a relaxed atmosphere’ and ‘helps with contractions.’ Many complimented Sam, the beauty of the photograph and how well she did.
In a recent interview, Sam described how the experience at home was much calmer than her previous birth with baby Paul in a hospital setting. ‘It was just so calm and relaxed, and it ran so smoothly compared to my first. It went perfectly.’
Of course, nothing about being in labour is easy, which is why putting some thought into how you intend to go about it, can really help! Having a birth plan doesn’t guarantee the birth will actually go to plan, but it will help you to feel more in control of a situation that can quite easily feel the opposite.
A recent episode of One Born Every Minute shows an expectant mum breaking down in tears when denied a water birth due to a slight complication. While awaiting the birth of her 2nd child, she is told ‘Looks like baby might have done a little bit of poo inside you. So you’re not going anywhere, we’re gonna keep you okay?’
The mum is disappointed when told she couldn’t go home but even more disappointed with the news that a water birth would no longer be an option. She had a water birth for her first baby which must have been a positive experience as she planned it again for her 2nd. Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances such as this can prevent a water birth from going ahead.
According to a maternity survey by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), 38% of women planned to use water or a birthing pool during labour in 2015, compared to 34% in 2013. The number of women actually birthing their babies in water has trebled in eight years. Rising from 3% in 2007 to around 9% in 2015. Meanwhile, the number of women giving birth to their babies on a bed fell from 91% to under 84%.
As you can see there has been a significant rise in the popularity of water births in recent years but not all birth plans go to plan. American TV personality Joy-Anna Duggar recently talks about the importance of flexibility with birth plans, she shares her story of planning a home water birth but giving birth in hospital. Joy-Anna labored for 20 hours at home before discovering the baby was breech, she was then rushed to hospital for an emergency C-section. The dramatic incident was shown on TLC’s ‘Counting On’ reality TV show. The new mum shared some important advice about flexibility being key when planning labour and delivery. ‘Prepare for the birth and have plans but if something doesn’t go as planned then be OK with that and just have another plan.’
Although it is all right to aim for an ideal birth plan, remember that plans can change. If you decide you would like a water birth to be a part of your plan, it is a good idea to take it easy on yourself if things do change, especially when it comes to something as sensitive and unpredictable as childbirth. Trying too hard to achieve your idea of perfection in delivery can have negative consequences. When you anticipate the birth of your child for 9 months (or longer), feelings of disappointment, failure and even perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can surface when things don’t go exactly as planned.
It’s all right to aim for your ideal birth plan, but remember that plans change, especially when it comes to something as unpredictable and delicate as childbirth. Be knowledgeable but flexible, and be gentle with yourself if you didn’t achieve a birth that’s exactly how you planned. Accepting that birth plans can change is an important part of a healthy delivery.
Whether you are opting to plan for a water birth or not, remember that delivering a healthy baby is the ultimate birth plan.
If you are considering a water birth, you may be wondering what the evidence suggests and what beneficial information you need to help make your decision. Below you will find answers to some commonly asked water birth questions.
Is it safe?
If you are healthy and you have a straightforward pregnancy then yes, it is safe. There is little difference in the health of babies born in water to those that are not.
It is hard to find strong evidence for or against the safety of giving birth or delivering the placenta in water. Blood loss is not increased and may even be less than other options such as using a birth stool.
Babies born in water also have a similar Apgar score and other indicators of wellbeing as babies who aren’t born in water. However, I agree that more high-level research is required to be certain.
Will it affect the length of labour?
The length of labour appears on average to be shorter with water births. An Iranian study found that using water made the active stage and pushing stage shorter compared with labouring out of water.
Will it ease the pain?
For labour that starts naturally and for induced labour, immersion in water is recommended as it can help you cope with labour pain. Research suggests that women who used a tub, bath or pool during the first stage of labour were less likely to need a spinal or an epidural.
Transferring from a birth pool to a labour ward is often due to needing stronger pain relief. In one study, only 24% of first-time mothers who had water births needed pain-relieving drugs compared to those who didn’t use water.
Will it affect the chances of tearing?
The chances of tearing are likely to be the same whether the birth is in water or air. Some large UK studies from the 90s, which the Royal College of Midwives include in their evidence-based guidance on immersion in water, found there is less perineal trauma when using a birthing pool.
However, they also advise to use this information with caution as earlier studies did not always state whether the women stayed in the pool for the birth or only during labour.
A study since then suggests that although the rate of tears is similar between water and air births, the event of third degree tears may be increased in water births. The pushing stage tends to be quicker in the water birth group which could have been a factor. Another factor to consider is the limited extent to which the midwife is able to see and physically protect the perineum during water birth.
Any other benefits?
Stress and anxiety relief:
Pain relief in turn lessons the perception of pain and can give you more confidence in your ability to give birth.
Supports your weight:
It supports your weight and makes it easier to stay upright. This helps your pelvis open up so your baby can pass through. The buoyancy of the water also offers ease with changing positions which helps with contractions.
Feel good hormones:
Relaxing in warm water stimulates the body to produce pain-relieving endorphins.
It can be combined with other forms of pain relief:
This includes massage, gas and air, aromatherapy and acupressure. Note that a TENS machine cannot be used for water births, or pethidine as it makes you drowsy. An epidural cannot take place either, as it limits your mobility. You can, however, choose to leave the pool to take these pain relief options at any time.
The pool itself is a quiet and private environment which can help you to feel secure during labour.
So who can’t have a water birth?
In general, if there have been complications during pregnancy or if your baby is showing signs of distress, you will be advised against a water birth.
You will also be advised against it if:
– You have a chronic health condition such as diabetes or kidney disease or a health problem that can be easily transferred in water, such as herpes.
– You have high blood pressure or develop pre-eclampsia.
– Your labour is induced.
– Your baby is breech (feet or bottom first.)
– You are pregnant with more than one baby.
– Your baby is very small or has not been growing well during pregnancy.
– You have limited access to a midwife with the experience of water births when you go into labour. If there isn’t one on duty, you will most likely be asked to come out of the birth pool for the actual delivery.