What you need to know about planning a water birth

Water birth is growing in popularity around the world although here in South Africa perhaps not as significantly as elsewhere. I want to use this post to help expecting ladies and couples envision what it might be like to have a water birth and to inform them around the evidence as well as the general pros and cons so they can make the most informed decisions possible regarding their upcoming birth.

The problem you face once pregnant is trying to sift out the facts and the evidence-based suggestions vs peoples’ opinions and their perspective on what you should do. In this clip, I point expecting couples to Rebecca Dekker’s Evidence-based Birth website and her fantastic article on Water birth (among others). The beautiful images are supplied by our very talented local birth photographer and now videographer, Marysol Blomerus. Hope you enjoy it!

For those considering a water birth in South Africa, I thought you might appreciate these links:

1. A South African Woman’s Birth Story in images (actually an HBAC – home birth after Caesarian)water birth Just Engage 11

2. Another water birth story from Cape Town in beautiful imageswater birth Just Engage 14

3. Hiring a Birthing Pool www.motherinstinct.co.za

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4. Finding a Private Midwife for your water birth www.capemidwives.co.za

5. Finding a Doula – visit www.wombs.org.za

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Birth in itself is not predictable but it is exceptional as an experience you will never forget no matter what unfolds. So we have to prepare ourselves the best we can with the knowledge we have at our disposal:

  • Firstly, the knowledge about our own bodies, our general health and taking into account our medical histories and past pregnancies and births.
  • We need knowledge around our health care system – so the country and health care system you will give birth in may impact your birth choices.
  • The professionals you choose to support you while pregnant and in labour might impact your birth. They each have their training background, their skill set and their bias on what might be best for you.
  • Lastly, you need to be informed about each birth option and what it would entail and then knowing your family and your personality, make the call of what your preference would be, making sure your team buys into that decision with you.

antenatal class online logo

This video clip forms part of our Online Antenatal Class, helping prepare expecting mothers and fathers for the realities of labour, birth and early parenting. Each lesson includes video clips, downloadable notes, related articles and blogposts. If you’re pregnant, you can sign up here for the online class and work through all the similar video content in your own space and time. To view the course content, click here.

If you have had a water birth, we would love to hear your story and possibly share it with our readers. You might also have other contacts and links you think could be helpful to expecting moms – send them to admin@just-engage.com or post them as a comment below. I’d also love to hear your comments on the above video clip and content.

To learn more about the services offered by Marysol Blomerus, you can read Ever Considered Birth Photography?

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Video transcript – Water Birth

One of the more popular options is a water birth so in this clip I’ll discuss some of the important things to understand on the topic of Water birth.

Water birth by definition, is childbirth that takes place in water. The baby’s head and shoulders are delivered under water and then once the body is delivered, the baby is brought to the surface of the water as soon as possible to take his or her first breath. Many would argue that water birth results in a more relaxed, positive & less painful experience. Critics would argue that water birth hasn’t been scientifically proven to be safe and that it might predispose mother and child to infections as well as pose the risk of infant drowning.
The internet can offer you many mother’s water birth stories and most of them are extremely positive. In terms of scientific evidence that is available a 2009 Cochrane Review of water immersion in the first stages of labor found evidence of fewer epidurals and few adverse effects but insufficient information regarding giving birth in water.
Rebecca Dekker has started a website called evidencebasedbirth.com and is gaining popularity as the go-to site for analysis of the evidence on different topics around labour and birth. This is what she had to say on water birth:
“More than 28,000 water births have been observed in research studies. Although most of these studies were not randomized trials, results from multiple high-quality, large studies are reassuring. Harmful effects in large studies were either non-existent or very rare”
Most notable was her list of benefits to mom including:
  • a significant decrease or total elimination in the use of episiotomy by their care providers.
  • Higher rates of intact perineum
  • Lower rates of 3rd and 4th degree tears
  • Less blood loss or no difference in blood loss
  • Less use of pain medication
The water buoys your pregnant body, making it easier to move around through the contractions. Because we associate warm baths with relaxation, the sensation and experience might well reduce the stress hormone levels being released and increase the oxytocin levels which will help labour progress and in turn, help you get through the painful contractions.  In the bath, you can achieve many upright positions while still in the water and have birth partners or midwifes nearby to assist you. Then at the second stage of labour you can move to a bed to actually deliver the baby.
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For a planned water birth,the idea is that the warm waters of the pool will feel like the waters of your uterus (womb) to your baby so the birth might be less traumatic for the baby and apparently babies born in water cry less initially than babies born in air. Healthy babies should be protected by what’s called the dive reflex, closing his or her  airways while underwater and should only try to inhale once the nerves on their face, mouth and nose have been stimulated by the air and temperature drop outside the water. Although it’s not common, there is a risk that if the baby is brought to the surface too rapidly, the dive reflex could be overridden or the umbilical cord can snap.
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One of the benefits is you can control the environment more. Whether at home or in a hospital, many women choose dim lights and /or candles, soft music and only birth partner and midwife or doula in the room with them to limit noise and distractions. Some women say the confined space of the bath helped them go into their own world and focus purely on their labour and birth. Giving birth in water may be easier, you have the sides of the bath to push against.
Then there are the logistics involved:
  1. You will need to hire a midwife specially trained to assist in water births.
  2. You will need to hire a birth pool for a home birth or arrange to give birth somewhere where you will access to a birth pool.
  3. You will need the space to set up the pool, to fill the pool with hot or warm water and over time to drain water and refill it.
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Water birth can be an incredible experience for mother , father and child. Nevertheless make sure you are fully informed of potential risks and that you have the best possible team with you to cope with any eventuality.

 

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