Becoming an increasingly popular choice for birthing women, having a water birth can offer some amazing benefits including deep relaxation promoting efficient labour, better buoyancy resulting in better oxygenation of the uterus, and increased comfort with ease of mobility. These are just some of the benefits, with a full list of advantages and disadvantages below.
Here in Melbourne, water birth is readily available at only a select few public hospitals, and unfortunately not available at any private hospitals that I know of. Should you choose to have a private homebirth, then you are absolutely 100% guaranteed to be able to choose a water birth, by hiring the right equipment and having the support of your private midwives.
Water Birth is not as straightforward as just pumping and filling up a pool, or telling your hospital on arrival that you are wanting a water birth.
Things you need to consider for a home water birth are:
Do I have the space and availability of adequate supply of hot water?
Have I got the physical support of someone to assist in helping/lifting me if I need to get out?
Do I have all the right equipment - pool liner, thermometer, etc.
Things you need to consider for a hospital water birth are:
Does the hospital have a water birth pool, and if so will there be someone on staff at all times who is trained in water birth?
What if someone else is birthing in the birth pool when I arrive. Is there a backup birth pool or how long might I have to wait until the birth pool is cleaned and ready for me?
If my waters have broken, can I still enter the birth pool without risk of infection?
What is the hospitals policy on water birth?
Water Birth Advantages
Pain Relief - Water stimulates the touch and temperature nerve fibres in the skin, and blocks the impulses from the pain fibres. Promotes Deep Relaxation - Water buoyancy and temperature enables a woman to relax more, in turn minimising pain. Greater Comfort - Water allows a woman to easily move positions quickly to manage the pain and assist the descent of the baby. Reduction of Stress and Anxiety - which lessens the perception of pain and gives a woman confidence to let to and focus inwards as labour intensifies. Empowerment of the Mother - An enhanced birth experience for the mother as she delivers her baby in control, alert and in an environment that is quiet and secure. Reduces the risk of tearing - Water softens the tissue of your perineum, making your skin more supple and able to stretch to accommodate your baby's head. Greater involvement of the partner - Because the mother's pain is greatly reduced, the partner can actively participate in helping the mother birth their baby, and create a greater family bond and positive parent-child relationship.
Water Birth Disadvantages
Other forms of pain relief may not be possible - Obviously water and electricity don't mix, so you can't use your TENS machine while you are in the birth pool. Drugs - For obvious reasons, it is not possible to have pethidine or an epidural whilst in the birth pool. Gas and Air are fine, so is massage, aromatherapy and acupressure. Not every Hospital offers Water Birth - you will need to do your research to find a care provider who will support your choice to have a water birth. In some cases it may slow labour down - because of the deep relaxation, some mother's labour stalls or slows down. If this is the case, hop out, change environment for a while then get back in when you need the pain relief again. Mess - it can get a bit messy towards 2nd stage, so its not for the overly squeamish.
The temperature of the water needs to be closely monitored. During 1st stage of labour (contractions etc.) the water should be kept at between 35 and 37 degrees Celsius. This is to ensure the baby does not overheat (baby is already a few degrees warmer in utero, and if the water is too hot, the baby's temperature may rise, and cause some complications). During 2nd stage (pushing baby out) the temperature needs to be brought up to between 37 and 37.5 degrees Celsius.This ensures a consistent temperature for baby to arrive into the birth pool.
Where can I have a Water Birth in Melbourne?
At home is the only place you will be guaranteed a spot in the birth pool. Hiring a birth pool is very simple. Contact Simply Birth and they will get you kitted out with everything you need.
At Hospitals such as: Frankston, Monash Clayton, Casey Berwick and many regional hospitals.
Many hospitals offer birth pools for relaxation during labour but do NOT allow you to birth in the water. Do your research and ask all the right questions if you are contemplating a water birth.