There are many benefits to using water in labour and birth. Warm water induces a state of relaxation, reducing the production of stress hormones and stimulates the production of endorphins (nature’s own pain killers). Warm water also stimulates touch and temperature nerve fibres in the skin, blocking impulses from the pain fibres to the brain (the gate control theory of pain). The labouring person can adopt comfortable positions easily, because of the buoyancy of the water. The counter pressure of the water allows a more gentle delivery of the baby’s head.
Recent medical studies conclude that in a low risk pregnancy, a waterbirth is as safe as a normal vaginal delivery. Other benefits shown in these studies are a reduction in the length of first and second stages of labour (particularly for a first birth), and a reduction of pain relief requirements. A world authority on fetal and neonatal breathing, British physiologist Paul Johnson, states that there are normal, physiological mechanisms that inhibit an infant breathing under water immediately after birth. If the infant has an intact umbilical cord, has not shown signs of stress during the labour and birth process and is delivered into a warm liquid similar to his or her body temperature.
Midwifery care is for pregnant people with healthy, uncomplicated pregnancies and are therefore good candidates for a waterbirth. For further information on waterbirth, you can contact your midwives.
Waterbirth in hospital is limited by number of tubs available.