PREPARING FOR A WATER BIRTH
©1997-2000 Compiled by Andrea Eastman, MA, CCE, IBCLC
The Gentle Birth Alternatives® Website
PREPARE YOUR MIND
Examine your motivations, incentives, and expectations for wanting a water birth. Ask yourself what made you decide to have a water birth. Ask yourself why you want to have a baby this way - is this something that you are doing for yourself, or are you doing it because someone expects you to have your baby this way? Remain flexible and let go of your expectations that you must birth your baby in a certain way; how will you feel if your baby is not born underwater? Get in touch with your own fears. Develop and trust your intuition.
TUBS & BIRTH POOLS
The tub should be big enough to sit in comfortably and deep enough for the water to come up to armpit level so as to get an adequate degree of buoyancy.
AquaDoula.com: Tub Rental & Purchases
Global Maternal/Child Health Association & Waterbirth International
Both provide rental kits for expectant parents. Check with the company about rental fees..
Make sure that your tap adaptor fits the faucet that you will be using. Clean the tub with a non-abrasive cleaner, and then use a 10 percent solution of bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) and rinse thoroughly.
Consider purchasing two hoses, of different colors, one for filling and one for emptying the water. Remember that the water rises by 1 to 2 inches for each person who gets into the tub and allow for this as you are filling the tub with water; Recommended: fill to 9 inches from the top and add more as necessary to avoid spilling over. Do a test run and time how long it takes to fill your tub so that you know this information for your labor. Take this information into consideration when you go into labor. Depending on how quickly you are progressing and on how quickly the tub fills, you may want to start filling the tub immediately.
The water should be clean: if it is pure enough to drink, it is pure enough to give birth in. The temperature of the water should be between 95-100°F (about body temperature), depending on your preference. Adjust temperature of the water to what feels comfortable to you. If the water is too cold, you will lose body heat as you try to keep warm and you may end up tense and shivering. If the water is too hot, you may feel drowsy, woozy and overheated. Too hot is not good for the baby either.
The floor should be strong enough to support the weight of the tub when it is full of water. The room should be large enough to allow you to try different positions, and for the midwife to set up her equipment.
Be sure to put something waterproof on the floor to protect it from any water spills and water dripping. Shower curtain liners or waterproof tarping or plastic would be a consideration. Have plenty of absorbent bath towels available to help clean up any spillage. You do not want to cause any floor damage that would be expensive to repair later.
WHAT TO EAT & DRINK
Drink to thirst; make sure that your partner remind you to drink at least a half pint of water every couple of hours to avoid dehydration, which can result in fatigue and a poorly functioning uterus. Eating and drinking during labor has been shown to reduce the total length of labor by as much as 90 minutes! Eat light, easily digestible and absorbable things such as soups, broths, herbal teas, and juices. Avoid heavy, spicy foods that require a digestive function (digestion slows or stops during labor) and foods that could cause stomach upset. Avoid acidic foods such as orange juice. Instead try apple juice.
WHEN DO YOU GET INTO THE TUB?
When you feel comfortable, when you have a strong desire to be in the water. It is best to wait until your contractions are strongly established so that labor is not halted by getting into the water. Some recommend waiting until you are more than 5 cm dilated; you want to save the pain relieving effect for the time when you are experiencing the most pain, at transition (just before the pushing phase).
WHAT ABOUT DEBRIS?
Use a fish net (the fine-net kind you use for a fish tank) to remove any mucus, blood clots, feces, or vomit from the water as soon as possible.
Experiment with different positions while in the tub. Be sure to try kneeling, squatting, sitting, or lying outstretched. Some women prefer to have their coach in the tub with them to hold them and to act as an anchor.
HOW LONG SHOULD THE BABY STAY UNDER WATER?
Discuss this with your birth attendants. Many people feel comfortable with the time that it takes for the mother to reach down and pick up her baby. Any longer than that is not necessary.
HOW DOES THE BABY BREATHE?
The baby begins to breathe when its face breaks the surface of the water and comes into contact with the air. Until then, the baby receives oxygen through its umbilical cord.
WHAT ABOUT THE PLACENTA?
Some people choose to stay in the tub after the birth and bond with the baby. Because of this, they also choose to birth their placentas in the tub. This is something that should be discussed with your birth attendant. If the placenta is slow to come, then be sure to get out of the tub!
WILL THE MOTHER GET AN INFECTION FROM THE WATER?
Dr. Michael Rosenthal reports that there have been no incidences of infection in close to the 1000 births that he has attended. This may be due to the fact that in labor, everything is moving down and out. With the baby coming down the birth canal, it does not make sense that bacteria could move up into the uterus. The concentration of bacteria in and around the vagina is actually diluted by the water.
Copyright © 2002 by Andrea Eastman, MA, CCE, IBCLC
Water Birth, By Balaskas, Janet and Yehudi Gordon. London: Thorsons and HarperCollins Publishers, 1990.
The Waterbirth Handbook, By Lichy, Dr. Roger and Eileen Herzberg. Bath, United Kingdom: Gateway Books, 1993.
Water Birth: A Midwife's Perspective, By Napierala, Susanna. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1994.
The Nature of Birth and Breastfeeding, By Odent, Michel. Westport, CT: Bergen & Garvey, 1992.
WaterBirthInfo.com: Water Birth Information
Water Birth - A Gentle Birth Choice
Wikipedia.org: Water Birth
American Pregnancy Association: Labor & Birth: Water Birth
Ronnie Falcao's Midwives Archives: Waterbirth
Cascade Healthcare: Water Birth Tubs & Supplies
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