We all know that our fetus is mostly water ( like we are ) and that the fresh-water "shrimp" is swimming and growing and developing in a watery world until about forty weeks gestation. We all know that in pregnancy we must radically increase the water that we drink to accommodate for the fifty percent increase in blood volume that is necessary to the successful outcome of this pregnancy.
We have heard from our providers that if we have swollen ankles, contrary to what we'd intuit, we must drink more water to push that fluid out through our kidneys. WE have been told that a big glass of water is the first line of defense for Braxton-Hicks contractions. And we have been taught that a nice warm bath will smooth over those pesky contractions, that are not the "real" thing.
Now we are hearing about water birth. What does that mean exactly? All vaginal deliveries are pretty watery, not to mention, bloody and mucousy too. We are hearing that only certain birthing facilities are providing the opportunity for water birthing and that not all doctors and midwives are participating in the delivery at a water birth. If we think it's what we want for our birthing experience, the birthing facility requires a class in water birthing techniques in order for us to even qualify for a "water birth".
The concept of laboring and delivering in a tub of water isn't new. We are taught that water is an excellent vehicle for relaxation, whether we are laboring or not. We know that athletes finish their work-out and cool down and get in a tub of water to give their stressed- out muscles a well-deserved rest. Water traditionally is considered life-giving and life-affirming. Baths and showers may be more beneficial than narcotics for relieving tension ( emotional and physical ). The buoyancy of water is thought to reduce the pain of contractions. The stimulation of the shower is not only enjoyable but may even change the awareness of pain during contractions.
Even though we are instructed to avoid immersion in water if our membranes have broken, the counter-pressure of a hand-held shower head may be great relief if directed at the lower back or pelvis. Just like a hot (warm ) water bottle. And some providers feel that a warm bath actually may speed-up a slow start to labor contractions. In a very protracted ( long ) labor, relaxing in a tub may allow rest and even sleep. Please don't leave a laboring woman alone in water.
Water is used in the form of a hot compress to relax the perineum to facilitate perineal massage. Water is used after delivery to the perineal area in a cold compress or in the form of ice to reduce swelling of the pelvic floor. And we all know that a cold compress applied to the face and neck refreshes and a watery-cold cloth is often offered to a laboring woman just to suck on and provide hydration.
Most birthing facilities offer a tub for laboring but it's only those aforementioned that will allow a baby to be delivered in water. The birth partners may accompany the mom-to-be in the tub especially for back support while pushing, so remember to bring swimwear for them. It is believed by proponents of water birth that the transition from one watery world to another is a more natural one. Babies do not begin to breathe air until exposed to air for the first time, when fetal circulation changes entirely. So if the baby is delivered into a tub, there is no risk of drowning. Immediately after birth, the baby is removed from the deeper water and placed in the mother's arms at chest level.
Then the cord can be cut and the baby is transferred from the tub to a clean and dry nursery station in the birthing room for the necessary actions to be taken before a good Apgar score will allow baby back to parents for bonding. And your baby won't really be a full-fledged water baby until that cord dries up and falls off, so you can safely immerse your baby in a tub for bathing.