Waterbirth: The Gentle Approach
There’s nothing more refreshing than a dip in the ocean, the freedom, weightlessness and buoyancy. For a woman in labour, those qualities of water provide incredible, infinite benefits.
When a woman relaxes in warm water, free from the pull of gravity and with sensory stimulation reduced, her body is less likely to release the stress-related hormones noradreneline and catecholamines, which actually raise blood pressure and can inhibit or slow labour. This allows her body to produce the pain inhibitors, endorphins, that complement labour. Being relaxed physically will of course influence her mental and emotional states. Less stress and fear leads to fewer complications and therefore less intervention is necessary.
A woman’s perception of pain is greatly influenced by her level of anxiety. When labour is physically easier, a woman’s ability to calmly concentrate is improved and she is able to focus inwards on the birth process. With her body responses being so intricately linked, a mother’s calm demeanour and the hormones her body secretes in response to her emotions, is then transferred and absorbed by her baby. Numerous women, midwives and doctors acknowledge the analgesic effect of water, often dubbed a wet epidural.
Another benefit of water is the elasticity that water imparts to the tissues of the perineum, reducing and often eliminating tearing. Human babies are predominantly water, and have spent the last nine months in water, so the familiarity of entering warm water from the birth canal is a much gentler transition. The limbs can unfold with greater ease and the reassurance from being in familiar fluid surroundings allows their bodily systems time to organize. The shock and sensory overload which often accompanies birth is greatly diminished and the whole experience can be profoundly affected in a gentle way.
Fortunately we live where waterbirth is possible and readily accepted by a proportion of the medical practitioners in our area for both home births and in some hospitals. At home, there are the added advantages of being in comfortable surroundings, as some women have trauma around the hospital system. The choice of who will be at your birth, no separation from the baby and other siblings, the ability to plan the birth ritual and process according to spiritual and cultural beliefs, the choice to do what you want in labour, ie, dance, sing, scream, whatever, and less risk of infection, medication and of course intervention, are all assets to home birth. Having your own midwife throughout your pregnancy and birth allows you the opportunity to bond with her and develop a deeper level of understanding of your needs around your pregnancy and birth and the birth process.
There are immense benefits of water during the labour and birth process and women are urged to consider all of their options carefully before deciding where and how they would like to give birth, as it is one of the most profound and magical experiences we can have.
Published in byronchild/Kindred, Issue 3, September 02