As we all know, the birth process isn't known to be comfortable. Many women in today's day and age use epidurals to help with this. As an alternative, have you thought about a water birth? Many believe that water birthing provides a more natural means of pain control than using medication. American College of Nurse Midwives, the American Association of Birth Centers and the Royal College of Midwives all endorse water birthing as both a safe and effective means of aiding birth and easing the mother's pain.
Water birthing involves a mother and, if she wishes, the father or other birth helper, sitting in a tub of warm water beginning at the first stage of labor. The warmth and buoyancy helps mom relax and can shorten delivery time.
During water immersion in labor, the mother does not deliver in the water, but leaves it for pushing and delivery.
"Land births" usually position the mother to convenience the doctor's view, not in accord with gravity. Lying with her feet in stirrups with her pelvis tipped upward means she must push uphill. Water birthing allows gravity to help--at least a little.
Many people are accustomed to relaxing in water. Soaking in a hot tub, or bubble bath, floating on a lake or in a pool, taking a long, hot shower: these activities are all about de-stressing. Water birthing can help moms relax during what can be a very anxious time.
A few small studies have linked water birthing with reduced need for episiotomies, use of forceps and Caesarian section. Part of the reason is that it's more difficult to use some of these techniques while the mother is submerged.
The disadvantages to water birthing include the parents' and providers' comfort level. To some, laboring and/or birthing in water seems just plain weird.
Some fear that fecal matter expelled during birthing will contaminate the water. Although it does happen, birth attendants simply remove the waste with a small skimmer and carry on. Babies are exposed to numerous bacteria during birth anyway.
Some parents worry about the baby drowning; however, babies won't actually breath until after the air touches their skin.
Monitoring the baby's vital signs can be trickier in a tub. It's important that providers caring for a mother using water birthing are completely familiar with this environment and are 100 percent supportive of the technique.
In smaller communities, parents may be limited in their provider options. Usually, midwives tend to be more open to water birth than obstetricians, but parents must make arrangements ahead of time to make water birth part of their birth plan. It's not commonly offered in birthing centers.
Of course, planning a home birth can more likely include water birthing, but it's wise to include a midwife or other knowledgeable attendant to help.
If you decide water birth is for you, talk with your care provider right away.