THE USE OF WATER FOR LABOR
Some suggestions for labor:
• The temperature should be body temperature
or slightly lower.
• Be equipped with an efficient pump, heater, and
• A thermometer and large plastic strainer to
clear the water.
• At least 2 feet deep, to cover the abdomen when
she is doing squats or is kneeling. In order to
encourage the “freestyle movement” it should
be a pool that is at least 5 ½ feet wide.
• Optimum time: during active labor (5-8
centimeters in dilation).
• When having back labor, get into the water. The water relaxes and acts as a counter-pressure.
• If you have previously had an active labor and then stalls once in the water, get out of the pool
and move: squat, kneel. Walk, sway hips.
• Or if the labor is stalled, get into the pool, sometimes it’s just the relaxation you need to get
things started again.
It is safe to use the pool once your membranes have ruptured. Birthing centers with experience using the pool have not had any increase in infections reported.
Don’t expect all pain sensation to cease. It will decrease the pain, but does not make it completely go away. Often it’s how you move in the water, not just the pool of water.
An advantage of using the water pool for labor in the hospital is that you can really feel a sense of privacy, allowing space to sink into your own intuitive self for labor. Anxiety and blood pressure both are lowered when in the water. The stressors of hospital atmosphere is diminished, lowering the catecholamine (stress hormones) and “the secretion of endorphins” which are the relaxants that you body naturally produces, and the hormones that produce pain relief.
WATER FOR BIRTHING
Water birth is perfectly safe.
Sears & Sears state “The school of water-birthing that practices slow emergence (baby is left under the water, SIC) can be dangerous (156).” They use the example of water mammals that birth in the water, and how these mammals assist the newly born immediately to the surface.
An additional need when doing a water birth, is some salt. Adding salt allows for the pool water to have the same salinity as the amniotic fluid of the womb. The amount necessary is a generous tablespoon of salt. Before filling the pool be sure it is cleaned with mild disinfectant, and rinsed, “unless disposable liners are provided to contain the water (Balaskas, 208)”.
If your membranes break while in the water, there is no need to change the water. The amniotic fluids and “bloody show” are both sterile.
During birth in the water, the relaxation of the sphincter muscles may cause some fecal matter to be excreted. This is when that suggested plastic strainer comes in handy. There is no “evidence to show that it contaminates the water sufficiently to contribute any risk of infection (Balaskas, 212)”
You can kneel on all fours, squat, or be in a semi-sitting position to birth. Your partner can be in the pool with you or sitting just outside the pool.
Once the baby is born, the attendant (doctor or midwife) check to be sure the cord is not around the baby’s neck, and unravel the cord if it is. The baby may float to the surface on its own, or you may gently guide the baby to the surface.
Breathing will not occur until the baby emerges to the air, the coolness of the air causing the reaction to breathe. Occasionally the baby may need suctioning to clear the air passages. The cord has not been cut yet, so there are dual sources of oxygen. “In the rare circumstance that the baby doesn’t breathe, it is wise to take baby gently out of the pool into a cooler atmosphere. This will trigger the breathing reflex (Balaskas, 214)”. If necessary oxygen can be administered.
The baby can be held in the water, at breast level. It is best to sit or kneel in a vertical position. The rooting reflex will be strong, so turn the baby to face you, yours and baby’s bellies facing, to make breastfeeding easier.
You can stay safely in the water until the placenta is expelled, which generally takes place 10 -20 minutes later. Pay attention to the cord, if the pulse decreases it means the placenta is about to be expelled. The baby can be handed to the partner, and you can stand up slowly and leave the pool. If the expulsion occurs sooner and you feel the placenta released from the body, you can still stand up slowly once you have realized it, the cord can be cut before leaving the pool.
The persons you have present to assist the birth can cover you and baby as you leave the pool. It would be important at this time to have the temperature raised in the room. If you had not expelled the placenta before leaving the pool, you can stand or squat at this juncture to deliver the placenta. Then sit upright and enjoy your baby with comfortable warm coverings.
At this point, the midwife or doctor will check both you and the baby. After their examination, you can go to your bed and “…relax with your baby tucked warmly beside you (Balaskas, 215),…”.
Balaskas,Janet. Active Birth: the new approach to giving birth naturally, Rev. (1992) The Harvard Common Press
Sears, William and Martha Sears. The Birth Book: everything you need to know to have a safe and satisfying birth. (1994) Little, Brown and Company.