Water Birthing as a Natural Option
Water birth, or giving birth while immersed in warm water, has become increasingly popular among women who wish to avoid pain-blocking medication, explains Ann Becker, RN, CNM, director of First Impressions Birthing Center.
“The demand for water birth is growing,” she says. Mid-Columbia Medical Center is the only hospital in the Gorge that offers the water birth option, which, Becker explains, is a “hands-off modality,” meaning providers and/or nursing staff are present, but only intervene when absolutely necessary.
“Mothers like it,” says Becker. “It gives them control.”
After giving birth in water, mothers often say water birthing was gentler on their body throughout the labor, delivery and the recovery process. Giving birth in the water is natural, peaceful, calming and simple. With water births, needing pain relief is not necessary for some mothers.
The whole process usually involves just a few nurses and a doctor who are there to attend to the mother's needs and be ready to intervene in case anything happens. But mostly they just observe and coach a little bit, which mothers really enjoy.
Natural delivery can make the labor process easier on women's bodies because of the weightlessness of being submerged and the soothing warmth of the surrounding water. It also allows women to be able to move around and get into different positions as their bodies progress through labor.
For a woman to qualify for water birth, she must have a “normal” pregnancy without medical or obstetrical problems that would put her or her baby at high risk. Becker says the babies that have been born via water birth have arrived “super alert with wide open eyes and a great tone. It’s really lovely.”
For more information about birthing options at MCMC, contact First Impressions Birthing Center at 541.296.7210 or talk to your provider.
Benefits for Mother:
- Warm water is soothing, comforting, relaxing.
- In the later stages of labor, the water has been shown to increase the woman’s energy.
- The effect of buoyancy lessens a mother’s body weight, allowing free movement and new positioning.
- Buoyancy promotes more efficient uterine contractions and improved blood circulation resulting in better oxygenation of the uterine muscles, less pain for the mother, and more oxygen for the baby.
- Immersion in water often helps lower high blood pressure caused by anxiety.
- The water seems to reduce stress-related hormones, allowing the mother’s body to produce endorphins which serve as pain-inhibitors.
- Water causes the perineum to become more elastic and relaxed, reducing the incidence and severity of tearing and the need for an episiotomy and stitches.
- As the laboring women relaxes physically, she is able to relax mentally with greater ability to focus on the birth process.
- Since the water provides a greater sense of privacy, it can reduce inhibitions, anxiety, and fears.
Benefits for Baby:
- Provides an environment similar to the amniotic sac.
- Eases the stress of the birth thus increasing reassurance and sense of security.