In the 1960s Russia began using the Water Birth technique, and Michel Odent (a French Obstetrician) studied its use to benefit the process of birthing in the seventies and eighties. Odent shared what was discovered in the book Birth Reborn. Until the 1990s, the United States still did not use the method even though it had gained world-wide respectability.
WHY IT WORKS
Water relieves pain during labor because of “the law of buoyancy” also known as Archimedes principle. It says that when an object is placed in water, it will displace a volume of water in equivalence to its own weight.
A pregnant women feels an almost weightlessness when she is in the water which supports muscles and bones. This allows for the uterus to spare its energy. As the muscles of the abdomen, thighs and back relax…so will the birth passage.
More depth the mother has in the pool, the greater effect of weightlessness. This is especially good for back labor. As the muscles of the back relax, the internal tissues will also. It then will allow baby to maneuver, especially if positioned in the posterior direction.
Stress and anxiety causes the release of the stress hormones, which may not be the best idea for both baby and mother during labor. Stress hormones in the effort to protect will move the blood from non-vital areas of the body, which includes the uterus (considered by the natural hormonal reactions as a non-vital organ). Without the full flow of blood the uterus, the baby becomes oxygen deprived.
Water also “tricks the pain sensing system (Sears & Sears,153).” When the body of the pregnant woman is immersed it acts like a continuing body massage, and the temperature and touch-sensitive nerve receptors of the skin are stimulated. This process floods the nervous system with “pleasant sensations, virtually gridlocking the gate to painful stimuli (Ibid.)”.
WHAT THE RESEARCH SHOWS
In The Birth Book, Sears & Sears state that from 1985 to 1995 about 18,800 women used a Jacuzzi like pool at a birthing center in Upland, California. Dr. Rosenthal, the director and obstetrician stated that the women had almost always experienced shorter / easier labors, and had 1/3 the cesarean section than hospitals.
Other benefits experienced:
• Another birthing center used water birth for VBAC and had 87.5 success rate.
• Mothers labeled “high risk” because of high blood pressure which had reduced dramatically within a few moments after submersing in the pool.