THE BENEFITS OF WATERBIRTH
By Andrea Eastman, MA, CCE, IBCLC From Gentle Birth Alternatives
1. GREATER COMFORT & MOBILITY.
The mother has greater ease and freedom to move spontaneously and to change position to assist the descent of the baby.
2. REDUCTION OF PRESSURE ON THE ABDOMEN.
Buoyancy promotes more efficient uterine contractions and better blood circulation resulting in better oxygenation to the uterine muscles, less pain for the mother, and more oxygen for the baby.
3. HELPS MOTHER TO CONSERVE HER ENERGY.
Immersion reduces opposition to gravity; supports the mother's weight so that her energy can be used to cope with the contractions.
4. PROMOTES DEEPER RELAXATION.
As a woman relaxes deeply, her hormones will kick in and she will start progressing faster and with more rhythm; labor becomes more efficient.
5. WATER RELAXES THE PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES.
Minimizes pain to the levels at which relief by other methods are no longer needed. Water stimulates the touch and temperature nerve fibers in the skin and so blocks impulses from the pain fibers, known as the Gate Theory of Pain. Immersion is often more effective and safer than an epidural.
6. FACILITATES A DYSFUNCTIONAL LABOR.
Can be a way to stimulate dilation of the cervix when the mother has difficulty progressing into the active stage of labor.
Can reduce need for drugs to artificially stimulate labor often, getting into the pool may result in dramatic and rapid progress to full dilation within an hour or two.
7. LOWERING OF BLOOD PRESSURE.
When anxiety is causing high blood pressure, immersion in water may help lower it.
8. CHANGE OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
Immersion helps relieve anxiety and promotes relaxation. Allows a woman to let go and to focus inward as labor strengthens.
9. EASIER BREATHING.
The moist air makes it easier to breathe and can be helpful to women with asthma.
10. FACILITATES THE SECOND STAGE OF LABOR.
Mothers are less inhibited in the water.
The warm water softens the vagina, vulva, and perineum, leading to fewer injuries to these tissues.
Many women experience rapid second stages, with the baby emerging minutes after the body starts pushing, also known as the fetus ejection reflex (see Odent, The Nature of Birth and Breastfeeding).
Water Birth: The Concise Guide to Using Water During Pregnancy, Birth, & Infancy -- By Balaskas, Janet and Yehudi Gordon
(London: Thorsons and HarperCollins Publishers, 1990)
The Waterbirth Handbook: A Guide to the Gentle Art of Waterbirthing -- 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)
Copyright © 2002 by Andrea Eastman, MA, CCE, IBCLC
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