Water birth is an alternative birthing option that is quickly gaining ground throughout the community. The weightlessness of water birth reduces the gravitational pull and harsh stresses of pushing during labor. Laboring in the water can relieve much of the pain associated with childbirth and can allow the mother to use little or no medication. Other advantages beyond pain management include the comfort and mobility of the mother, reduced pressure on the abdomen, less expenditure of energy by the mother and deeper relaxation.
Water birth is a safe option for low-risk pregnancies, for women who do not have diabetes, high blood pressure, premature delivery or multiples. Babies don’t take their first breath until they reach the surface of the water, and there is no harm to the child to be birthed underwater and brought to the surface just after birth. Water birth does not have to be a substitute for pain medication, it can be used to manage pain during labor, then pain medication can be given to the patient for the actual delivery outside of the tub. Just because intervention may occur during the water birth process, doesn’t necessarily mean something went wrong. Birth plans can change in an instant to accommodate whatever is best for the mother and baby.
The water birth program does require women to bring their own tubs to the hospital with them. This is why it is important for women to begin thinking about birthing options early in their pregnancy, as women will need to become educated, prepare and obtain other supplies by 36 weeks. Several practices require you to supply your own tub, so check with your midwife to see what supplies you need to prepare. The exceptional team of certified nurse midwives within the Cone Health network has helped the water birth program at Women’s Hospital flourish, as midwives play a large role in educating expectant mothers and couples about water birth and caring for them throughout the entire pregnancy and delivery process.
Only a few practices are currently certified to provide water births as a delivery option, so look for a practice with midwives that can help you plan for a water birth.
Fran Cresenzo-Dishmon is a certified nurse midwife at Family Tree OB/GYN and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. She earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her Master of Science in nursing from Philadelphia University. Fran is currently working to complete her doctorate of nursing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2018.