Pregnancy App Article: "Water births"

Week 28
Water births
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The pros and cons
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Many women find that labouring in water is immensely comforting, helping to reduce pain and thus the need for pain relief. If you've ever had a hot bath to help with period pains, it's well worth considering. 

Where can you have a water birth?
Providing you're healthy and low-risk, in theory you could have have a water birth in hospital, at a birthing centre or in your own home.

But don't splash out on the waterproof mascara just yet: not everywhere has the facilities, and those that do rarely have enough to go round. So this is definitely something to discuss with your midwifery team, and to double check when you go on your hospital tour.

If your chosen hospital doesn't 'do' water births, it's worth asking if you can bring and use your own hired pool. If you are allowed to do this, do get confirmation in writing.

What are the advantages to water births?
  • They can be really effective at relieving pain, reducing the need for additional medication, including epidurals and opiates.
  • If you need to, you still have the option of using gas and air.
  • Water helps you relax, which in turn helps you feel a bit more in control of your labour.
  • The vaguely holistic set-up can be stress-reducing in itself - it's not precisely spa-like, but your surroundings do feel a bit less clinical somehow. 
  • Water helps to support your body, so you can get into a comfier position a bit more easily.
  • Because you're being partially supported, you might find labour (marginally) less tiring.
  • You'll be getting one-to-one care from a midwife throughout the birth, because hospital protocols mean you can't be left on your own.
  • Some research suggests you're less likely to require a forceps or ventouse delivery, or an episiotomy, or to tear badly - but as ever, there are no guarantees. 
Any drawbacks to a water birth?
  • Electricity and water don't mix, dammit - so that's the TENS machine out the window.
  • You can't use a pool if you have had pethidine or an epidural - you'll have to get out if you decide to go with either of these.
  • In some cases it may slow down labour.
  • They're probably not for the overly squeamish: things can get a bit messy in there. 
  • If an emergency occurs, it can take time to get out of the pool and into a situation where you can be better attended to.
  • They're not right for everyone - it can be surprisingly demoralising if you're expecting to love it, and you actually find it a bit meh.
Remember, too, that water births need a specially trained midwife - one might not be available at the point that you go into labour. 

Any circumstances which make a water birth a no-no? 
Alas, there are quite a few. Water births are not an option if:
  • your baby is breech
  • your labour is being induced
  • you've had a previous caesarian section
  • you're carrying twins, triplets or more
  • your baby is two weeks or more premature
  • you've been experiencing excessive bleeding or have a maternal infection 
  • you've got certain medical problems, like diabetes or heart disease
  • you suffer from herpes, as it transfers easily in water
  • there is severe meconium (your midwife will keep an eye out for this and advise accordingly)
  • you're suffering from toxaemia or pre-eclampsia
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I laboured in water for my first birth and I found it so relaxing and calm and am sure it helped the pain for me. However, after pushing for two and a bit hours I had to be hauled out as she had shoulder dystocia. I have to say that was frightening, but expertly dealt with by fab midwives.
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I was so in love with the idea of a water birth - hopped in all keen, hopped out after 10 mins. Hated it. SO uncomfortable.
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It supported my body and allowed me to move about so easily. Also it was a little private space and I felt safe and enclosed.
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