The Pros and Cons of laboring and giving birth in water.
For years, expectant mothers were told that not only should they avoid tub baths during labor but to not take a bath in late pregnancy “in case their water breaks.” Today more is known about the benefits of waterbirth and that in most cases, getting into a tub during labor should not be discouraged. More mothers are seeking out places of birth that offer waterbirthing as a option.
Although waterbirth may not be an option for every expectant woman, a significant majority of low risk mothers could make use of hydrotherapy (or laboring in a tub.) What are both the benefits as well as limitations of both waterbirth and hydrotherapy?
Benefits of Hydrotherapy and Waterbirth
- Significant pain relief is provided by getting into a tub. Some have compared it to the relaxing benefit of a narcotic.
- The water reduces gravity’s pull of the baby toward the mother’s back, thereby reducing pain from back labor.
- There is some evidence that tearing may be reduced in waterbirths.
- Tub options also include jets that can be directed to specific painful areas.
Limitations of Waterbirthing and Hydrotherapy
- Not all places of birth have tubs or providers familiar with using them. It is more common to find a facility or provider who will allow hydrotherapy during labor but not allow the actual birth to take place in the tub.
- This is not an option for high-risk mothers or after complications arise such as maternal high BP, meconium present in the amniotic fluid after the mother’s water breaks or concern with the baby’s heart rate/fetal distress.
Guidelines about Waterbirthing/Hydrotherapy
- Mothers should wait until they are in active labor (about 5cm) before getting into the tub since it can slow down labor.
- The water temperature should be close to the mother’s body temperature – approximately 98 degrees.
- It’s a good idea to get out of the tub, change positions, empty your bladder, etc.. every 60-90 minutes.
- Drink plenty of fluids since getting into a tub for long periods of time during labor can be dehydrating.