A water birth means at least part of your labour, delivery or both happen while you’re in a birthing pool filled with warm water. A doctor, nurse-midwife or midwife help you through it. While typically it’s recommended that water births take place in a hospital, it is possible to have one at home with the help of a midwife.
In 2011 AIMS Ireland (The Association to Improve Maternity Services Ireland) published a survey on water birth. Of those polled, 99% of women in Ireland feel they should have water as an option for pain relief, 92% of women in Ireland feel that they should have water birth as an option in maternity units and 91% of women in Ireland would avail of water birth if the option was made available to them. Only 4% reported that they were unsure if they would like to give birth in the water.
Top benefits of choosing a water birth:
Provides pain relief.
Research shows that labouring in the water signiﬁcantly reduces the need for epidural or spinal analgesia. This is attributed to the water pressure surrounding the bump during the early stages of labour.
Can be used with other forms of pain relief.
Women can still avail of gas and air in the pool as needed. You can use Entonox (gas and air) under midwifery guidance when you are in the pool. A pethidine injection is contraindicated while you are in the pool as it can make you drowsy. For this reason, if you have had pethidine you must wait 8 hours before you can use the pool.
Reduces risk of tearing and C-section.
Due to the pressure of the pool, many believe water birth reduces perineal trauma and eliminates episiotomies. Figures also show that mothers who opt for a water birth are statistically less likely to have needed a C-section.
Shorter labour time.
Many mothers experience a significantly shorter labour time with water births. This could be due to the fact that the majority of women require less pain-relieving medications and epidurals which can prolong labour.
More comfortable labour.
The buoyancy of the water helps distribute the mother’s body weight more evenly, allowing less pressure on the body. This can also help the mother move around more comfortably than in a bed.
Mother feels more in control.
Between the benefit of moving easily and the less likelihood of excessive pain relief, mothers who experience a water birth report feeling more in control during the labour process. This leads to greater emotional wellbeing postnatally
Encourages a calmer welcome for baby.
The less clinical and more peaceful atmosphere of the birthing chamber can also have a positive effect on the mental state of the mother, making the experience less stressful.
If you would like to labour or birth in the water, you can inquire about the option at your antenatal appointments. If the maternity unit you are attending does not provide pools to labour and birth in– make your wishes known in writing to the consultant you are under, to the Director of Midwifery, and to Your Service Your Say. The more women making these queries known, the more emphasis will be placed on the need for birthing pools in Irish hospitals.