For many soon-to-be parents around the world, giving birth in water is still not a top choice but there is a growing interest in this birthing method because of its many mother and child-friendly benefits.
Water birthing may have just started to gain popularity in the west, but the idea is not new. Traditionally, women in Romania have been giving birth in warm natural pools (usually in the summer) for a long time with few complications even before 1960, when Igor Tjarkovsky, a Soviet researcher and swimming teacher had scientifically pioneered the idea of giving birth in water. Tjarkovsy has facilitated the births of hundreds of babies in a warm tank of water using his method since then. Seventeen years later, Michel Ordent, a French obstetrician, started the use of the warm tub. The technique proved to be highly popular and spread rapidly. By the 1980s, more than four thousand babies in the USA had been born through water birth.
To start birthing, the mother in labor is placed in a tub with warm water. The baby is monitored by a special underwater device. The mother stays in the tub while she labors and she can choose whether to give birth while submerged or give birth outside the tub. If the baby is submerged when it is delivered, it is perfectly safe because babies do not breathe in air until they are exposed to air. An attendant quickly takes the baby out of the water and hands it to the mother. This process must always be under the supervision of trained medical personnel and should not be attempted on your own.
Despite its unconventional nature, many nurses and healthcare practitioners say that water birthing has many benefits. The mother is not overtly stressed or anxious because the water soothes her muscles and there is less pain than conventional birthing because water stimulates the body's natural pain inhibitors. The water also provides buoyancy which makes it easier for the mother to change positions and it also provides privacy for many self-conscious or first-time moms. The water also provides a less traumatizing environment for the baby because it is similar to the womb's environment and shields it from sound and light, thus preventing over stimulation at birth. Many midwives, obstetricians and birthing experts say that water birth can also minimize fetal complications.
If you choose to deliver your baby through water birthing, look for a hospital or birthing center that allows water birth and has medical personnel trained in the process. It is also recommended that you inspect the tub and the birthing equipment before you give birth, as well as their prices. Renting a tub may be an option too. If you are going to give birth at your nearest hospital, review their policies on water birth (some do not welcome it yet). Also, check on your insurance company to see if they will cover the expenses of your water birth.
Despite its many benefits, water birth is not for everyone. It cannot be performed for breeched, premature and multiple births. If you have had a risky diagnosis during your pregnancy (e.g. susceptibility to bleeding or an infection), talk to your doctor first. Having herpes, which is transferred through water, is also not ideal for water birth. If your body is quite inflexible, you may also have to resort to the conventional way.