Doulas and midwives have long known that giving a laboring woman the option of climbing into a large, deep tub of warm water often results in decreased pain, increased relaxation and better coping. And a better ability to cope with labor means less need for medical interventions.
A survey of 510 women revealed that laboring in and with water (bathing and/or showering) was more effective than systemic pain medications such as Pethidine (commonly known as Demerol, an opoid analgesic). In the survey, 77% of the women used drugs, with 56% receiving epidurals and while that method of pain relief received the greatest score for effectiveness, the survey showed that less interventive comfort measures such as breathing, massage, hot and cold packs and most especially, laboring in and with water, were found to be very effective as well.
According to Robin Elise Weiss, Pregnancy and Childbirth Expert at about.com, “The use of water in labor is second only to epidural anesthesia, without the risks of medications. Water birth is available in all birth settings, including hospital, home birth and birth centers.”
So, for women who value a non-medicated birth, water becomes a powerful tool for coping and working with labor.
Some hospitals have larger than average tubs in the birthing rooms, while some only have showers. Some hospitals will have only one large labor tub on the maternity wing floor so be sure to check with the facility where you plan to deliver and be aware of your options ahead of time. Ask to see the tubs and showers when you tour the facility.
Free-standing birth centers usually have large, deep labor tubs in every birth suite as the birth tub is sometimes referred to as the “natural” or “midwives’ epidural”.
All the birth tubs used in out-of-hospital births can accomodate more than one person so the laboring mother can have her partner in the tub, both for physical and emotional support and the midwives use under-water dopplers to listen to heart tones.
Waterbirths are common among women who give birth out-of-hospital and many expectant parents planning to give birth at home can buy or rent birth tubs to use for their labors as well. Portable birth tubs come in many styles and while the older models are still available, (above) many of the newer models are larger, with inflated bottoms, lids to keep the water warm and soft sides that make laboring even more comfortable. (To rent the tub below, contact me).
Did you labor or give birth in water?