Water Birth

What Are The Advantages of Water Birth?

  • May speed up labor
  • Gives mother more feelings of control
  • Provides moderate pain relief
  • Promotes relaxation , conserving maternal energy
  • Enables the mother to assume any position which is comfortable for labor and birth
  • Gives mother a private protected space
  • Is highly rated by mothers – typically stating they would consider giving birth in water again
  • Is highly rated by experienced providers

What is the temperature of the water?

Water should be monitored at a temperature that is comfortable for the mother, usually between 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit. Water temperature should not exceed 101 degrees Fahrenheit as it could lead to an increase in the mother’s body temperature which could cause the baby’s heart rate to increase. It is a good idea to have plenty of water to drink and cold cloths for the mother’s face and neck. A cool facial mist from a spray bottle is a welcome relief for some mothers as well.

What prevents baby from breathing underwater?

There are four main factors that prevent the baby from inhaling water at the time of birth:

1. Prostaglandin E2 levels from the placenta which cause a slowing down or stopping of the fetal breathing movements. When the baby is born and the Prostaglandin level is still high, the baby’s muscles for breathing simply don’t work, thus engaging the first inhibitory response.

2. Babies are born experiencing mild hypoxia or lack of oxygen. Hypoxia causes apnea and swallowing, not breathing or gasping.

3. Water is a hypotonic solution and lung fluids present in the fetus are hypertonic. So, even if water were to travel in past the larynx, they could not pass into the lungs based on the fact that hypertonic solutions are denser and prevent hypotonic solutions from merging or coming into their presence.

4. The last important inhibitory factor is the Dive Reflex and revolves around the larynx. The larynx is covered all over with chemoreceptors or taste buds. The larynx has five times as many taste buds as the whole surface of the tongue. So, when a solution hits the back of the throat, passing the larynx, the taste buds interprets what substance it is and the glottis automatically closes and the solution is then swallowed, not inhaled.

What is the risk of infection?

1960 American Journal of OB/GYN. Dr. Siegel posed the question, “Does bath water enter the vagina?” In his experiment he placed sterile cotton tampons into thirty women and then asked them to bathe in iodinated water for a minimum of fifteen minutes. In all cases when the tampons were removed, there was no iodine present. His conclusion states, “We can now stop restricting women from bathing in the later stages of pregnancy and labor.” Janet Rush, RN, and her Canadian group of investigators have conducted the only randomized controlled trial of the effects of water labor. They reported that there were no differences noted in the low rates of maternal and newborn signs of infection in women with ruptured membranes. Oregon Health Science University Hospital in 1999, cultures were done from the portable jetted birth pool before, during and after birth, as well as from the fill hose and water tap source. In all instances no bacteria was cultured from the birth pool but the tap water did culture Pseudomonas. In a British study of 541 water labors, no serious infections were reported during the three -year period of data gathering. Again, Pseudomonas was the only persistent bacteria discovered in two babies who tested positive from ear swabs. No infant required treatment.The birth pools at Charleston Birth Place have the latest technology to reduce bacteria including ozone water filtration systems and microban antimicrobial protection. The pools are cleaned and sterilized after each use.

How long is baby in the water after the birth?

At Charleston Birth Place we bring the baby out of the water within the first ten seconds after birth. There is no physiological reason to leave the baby under the water for any length of time. There are several water birth videos that depict leaving the baby under the water for several moments after birth and the babies are just fine. Physiologically, the placenta is supporting the baby with oxygen during this time though it can never be predicted when the placenta will begin to separate causing the flow of oxygen to baby to stop. The umbilical cord pulsating is not a guarantee that the baby is receiving enough oxygen. The safe approach is to remove the baby, without hurrying, and gently place him into his mother’s arms.

See a water birth at Charleston Birth Place