The most important aspect of warm water therapy for labor and birth is not all the facts, explanations, statistics or testimonials -- it is what is see over and over again. The AHHH! when the woman steps into the warm pool.
Warm water therapy during pregnancy, birth and postpartum can provide many aids. But the most talked about and witnessed benefit is the ability to relax. This type of relaxation can not be achieved any other way.
While pregnant our bodies become achy, heavy and awkward. Stepping into a warm pool of water (the bath tub and city pool just doesn't cut it) instantly relieves the woman of weight, eases discomforts of the feet, back and abdomen and allows her to move freely. It is simply heaven!
Women who suffer from pubic pain, sciatica, hip and back pain, swelling, elevated blood pressure and more can find relief and improvements with nightly deep water immersions during late pregnancy.
We have all heard the stories of the benefits of warm water for labor. This comfort option has gained tremendous momentum over the last 10 years.
Question the commonly stated "fact" that women should not enter the pool until they are at least 4 centimeters dilated because it may "slow down" labor. Enter the pool when you want the comfort of warm water.
Most women do one of two things:
1) appear to have milder contractions
2) appear to have stronger contractions.
What might be going on in situation #1 is that the woman is relaxing better and she is not displaying such intensity and is experiencing "normal" feeling contractions that do not alarm her. In situation #2 relaxation allows for improved quality of contractions and moves things along faster. It is not the water that causes either of these changes. It is the relaxation from being in warm water that brings these changes about. So jump in when you want. Worse case scenario - you get out for awhile and then get back in later.
Another missed benefit of water for labor and birth is the sense of privacy it provides. Many women feel safer and more secure - not so exposed in the water. Most women melt away to a different place. They are experiencing the AHHH response!
Women also seem to be less "needy" and more whole with their birth while in water. By whole, meaning, they are whole the birth. They ask for less help, have less expressions of desperation and follow their bodies innate birthing process more freely.
When not disturbed (talked to, unnecessary touching, exams, noise, commotion) women move naturally, changing positions as their body and baby dictates to help facilitate the baby's decent. Most women take a kneeling position in the pool, leaning on the edge. As the baby gets lower in the birth canal they move their knees farther apart and naturally move their hand down to touch their baby's head as it begins to crown. As the baby's head emerges the mother takes a more upright squatting position and uses both hands to catch her baby. It is a very remarkable thing to witness.
There is no doubt that the water aids a women in finding this innate birthing from within. Most women who birth on "land" require some directing and encouraging to birth in this manner. One is not right and the other wrong - but we can't ignore the many advantages to the use of warm water during labor and birth.
It is easy to support a woman who is in a birthing pool. Partners can sit next to the pool (birthing balls work great for this) and provide emotional and physical support as it is needed. It is also easy for the partner or the birthing assistants to reach into the pool and assist the mother or baby if needed.
Babies seem calmer when they are born into water. Once they are born they are gently lifted up to mother's chest and warmly welcomed by their parents. Most babies seem to unfold in the warm water after birth. Keeping their heads out of water, the parents simply allow the newborn to gently float. Many babies look around and seem to be taking in this new environment peacefully. Their first cry will often occur when the baby is lifted from the water so that mom can get out of the pool- their first feel of gravity.
Placentas deliver easily in water - they actually float or you can float a bowl in the pool with the placenta in it if mom is wanting to stay in the pool longer.
With the use of an underwater flashlight, you can easily see the birth progress by shining the light onto a submerged mirror below the mother.