To be eligible for a water birth, you need to meet the following criteria:
- Weight under 100 kgs
- Baby head down
- Healthy mother able to get out of the pool quickly
- Normal blood pressure, temperature and pulse
- Contracting without the need for intravenous medication
- No history of seizures
If you are healthy and between 37 and 42 weeks pregnant, have experienced a normal pregnancy with no serious medical conditions or complications, then yes, a water birth is suitable for you. In addition to what has been mentioned above, your labour should have started spontaneously and you should also be in established labour with strong regular contractions.
For healthy women with an uncomplicated term pregnancy, complications are rare.
Some people may be concerned that the baby will breathe while still under the water. This is highly unlikely as there are many mechanisms that prevent this from happening. One is the drop in temperature that normally occurs when a baby is born. The water temperature is carefully monitored throughout labour to prevent this drop.
Ensuring the baby’s head is totally submerged during delivery also prevents the breathing reflex from starting until the head is clear of the water.
So if you meet the requirements for a water birth, it can be a safe and beautiful experience for you.
A water birth can be a wonderful experience for an expecting mother. Water is calming and can help keep her less stressed. Some believe that because the water provides the same experience as within the amniotic sac, the birth is less traumatic for the baby as well.
Because it allows the laboring mother to move around at will, it also enables her to handle the contractions better and be more involved in her own birthing process.
A water birth has to be supervised by a qualified and responsible medical professional and the conditions need to be closely followed in order for it to be safe for all concerned.
- To use the toilet
- If there is difficulty in hearing your baby’s heart rate or any irregularities in the baby’s hear trate
- You may be requested to leave the pool for a vaginal examination (although this can sometimes take place in water)
- If your blood pressure, pulse or temperature become abnormal
- If your labour does not progress as expected
- In order to deliver the placenta
To maintain the benefits of labouring in water we will try to create a calm, unhurried and relaxed atmosphere. We will encourage you verbally when necessary and disturb you as little as possible at other times.
We will need to listen to your baby’s heart rate and regularly check your temperature, pulse and blood pressure. You will be supported during labour by a midwife and your birth partner.
Two midwives are usually present at the birth of your baby.
As you near the end of labour, you will know if you’d like to give birth in the water birth pool or leave the water birth pool for the birth of the baby. Giving birth in the water birth pool is carried out with a hands-off approach. Your midwife will be able to give you verbal guidance when the baby is about to be delivered when the midwife, yourself or your partner gently brings the baby to the surface of the water. This is to avoid the baby breathing when underwater.
Once the baby has been born, the head must not go back into the water, to prevent the baby inhaling water. Babies born in water tend to have their eyes open and be very calm.
If labour and delivery have progressed normally, it is ideal for your body to deliver the placenta without the need for drugs. This usually takes place out of the water.
You may want to bring a dressing gown because you can feel cold very quickly if you need to leave the pool for any reason, eg: to go to the toilet.