Waterbirth - natural or not? — The Bump
Natural Birth

Waterbirth - natural or not?

My husband and I are in the process of interviewing midwives.  I would LOVE to have a home birth, but our insurance will not even touch the subject.  $5,000 for a midwife + $2,000 for a doula = a whole lot of moolah for a home birth!  (Especially because I am planning on taking a year off from work after the baby is born).  If you disagree, please let me know!  

We are also considering delivering at a "natural friendly" birth center attached to a hospital (i.e. no IV, no laying on the bed for fetal monitoring, allowed to labor in a tub, no time limits on labor or pushing, partner can "catch the baby," no laying on your back to deliver, no tests or touching of the baby until two hours after the birth, etc).  The only real drawbacks are: 1.  We're not at home, 2. We'd have to travel there while I'm in labor (about 10 minutes away) 3.  You cannot actually give birth in the tub!

Yesterday we interviewed a midwife who delivers at this hospital.  We really liked her; however, she said that even when she does home births, she does not like for women to give birth in the tub.  She's fine with laboring in the tub, but no delivery.  She said that she had three babies over 9 lbs aspirate water.  She feels that, in general, waterbirths are safe, but, that she doesn't think that it is really "natural," as it is unlikely that our fore-bearers gave birth in water.  She thinks that the gravity from using a birth stool, etc., is more effective.  

As this is our first child, I feel like I am a sponge just constantly absorbing information.  I would love to get your opinions - waterbirth - natural or not?   

 

Re: Waterbirth - natural or not?

  • I don't want to get flamed for this but in my opinion it's not natural.  I'm all for midwives (currently looking now) and everything else you mentioned, including laboring in the tub if it eases your discomfort, but actually birthing in the tub is not for me.  Since this is our first we are looking at a midwife that has privileges at a local hospital so we will go there to have the baby but we will labor at home as long as possible.  Keep in mind that for us the hospital is 45 minutes away, I may end up laboring at my mom's house if we are too nervous and that's still about 10-15 minutes away.  Anyway being in the hospital we are immediately close to medical intervention if it is necessary but we are using the midwife so we won't exactly have a "traditional-hospital birth" either.  I am a human person, not a dolphin or a whale, I will give birth on land.  HTH (PS I am not disparaging anyone who chooses to do a water birth it just isn't for me.)

  • I think there are very serious reasons not to have one. If your baby aspirates warm water with bacteria or meconium in it...its just not a great way to start life. I am sure there are a lot of people who would disagree with this.

    It sounds like the place I gave birth has the same ideas on this as your midwife. I was able to labor in the tub but not push in there. 

    I am very glad that I had my birth at a hospital but with midwifes. I had the best of both worlds. There were doctors near by if we needed them.

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  • I also don't think waterbirth is "natural" for humans.  For whales, hippopotami, seahorses, sure, but not for humans.  We are not water beings.  We can't breathe underwater, and we don't instinctively swim. 

    When my family found out I was planning to use a birthing pool at DD's birth, they were nervous and intrigued - they thought I was going to give birth in the water, which was never my plan.  My sister has a friend who is a pediatric nurse, and she told me she heard that when babies are born in water, they naturally swim their way to the top - honestly, I don't believe it.

    That said, I do understand the appeal of a waterbirth.  If being in the tub had helped my labor at all (unfortunately, it did not), I might have refused to get out for delivery.  FYI, my midwives also had a policy of not allowing you to deliver in the tub, but my birth assistant told me privately that they can't actually make you get out if you don't want to.  Something to think about.

  • iris427iris427
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    As this is our first child, I feel like I am a sponge just constantly absorbing information.  I would love to get your opinions - waterbirth - natural or not?   

     

    I really don't understand this question--I mean, does it really matter?  It's hard to lump "our ancestors" together into one group, unless you are talking about Australopithecus birthing customs.  Human societies around the world and through time have long had different birthing customs--some good, some bad.  Some societies put dung on the umbilical cord stump.  Is that natural?  Sure.  Does it cause neonatal tentanus and death?  Yep. 

    What does natural really mean, you know?  In the sense that waterbirth is a non-pharmaceutical, non-invasive way to relieve pain, it can be considered natural.  It's also an effective form of pain relief with few downsides for the mom and baby.  I think that's a lot more important than whether our ancient ancestors did it.  You can always labor in the tub and get out when it's time to push. 

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  • To me "natural" is not where you are or what position you are in to get the baby it, it is that you are left undisturbed (unless medical intervention is necessary) to go through the process as your body dictates.  Using a tub to help relax you while you go through this process does not take the "natural" part away.  You're not being pumped full of synthetic hormones or opiates.  Water is a natural resource.  LOL.  Also, to the posters above, when the baby's head comes out, he's not automatically going to start using his lungs, so aspiration is very unlikely.  There is no temperature or pressure change that will start him breathing on his own until his entire body is removed from teh water.  And of course he still has his umbilical cord to provide oxygen, etc.
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  •  I completely agree with the previous post and would like to add: 

    So your midwife thinks waterbirth isn't natural. Does she consider hospital birth natural? Our ancestors didn't give birth in hospitals, they gave birth at home. That's funny. I consider natural birth anything that's drug-free and intervention free. I had a hospital birth with my first, epidural and everything because that's what I thought was what I was supposed to do (I was 15 and had pre-e). My last three babies I have birthed at home in the water and have had no complications whatsoever. Dim lighting, warm water, they came out pink and healthy and nursed right away. That's my natural. That's where I felt most comfortable and for people who are uneducated about water birth I can see how it may seem risky.

     Warm water is a wonderful pain reliever. Think about when you have bad menstrual cramps and how a hot bath can really relieve the pain, same concept.

    Do a little research and you'll see that it is completely safe if you are healthy and your pregnancy is without complications. If you want a water birth you need to choose a midwife who is educated about it and experienced in water births. There are a lot of resources out there about water birth. Here's a good one:

    http://www.givingbirthnaturally.com/waterbirth.html

    Mom to six awesome kids - Levi is 12, Landen is 8, Gabrielle is 6, Lucas is 3, and Oliver and Samuel are 2 years old. Love my crew. Baby Birthday Ticker TickerBaby Birthday Ticker Ticker
  • I would not labor at home.  And here's why.  When I was pregnant with Ben, I seriously considered giving birth in a birth center.  When I talked to our HypnoBirth teacher and asked her thoughts on the facility we were considering, she brought up a good point.  God forbid something happened during labor and Ben and/or I were in distress, birthing centers are often not equipped to handle emergencies.  Which means that they'd have to call an ambulance, wait for it to get there and then there is the transport time to the hospital.  I decided to opt for a hosptial birth and their policies were very in-line with the kind of birth that I wanted (rooming-in, skin-to-skin right after being born, BFing right away, I could refuse the IV, etc.).

    I have to tell you, I am SO glad that we opted for the hospital.  Ben was in severe distress at the end of my labor (his heartbeat kept dropping dangerously low) and after he was born, his cry just didn't sound right.  It turns out that he had a pneumothorax (the base of both of his lungs collapsed) and he had to be rushed to the NICU.  If we were at the birthing center, I don't know what would have happened and it scares me to think about it.  I don't mean to rain on your parade, but I just wanted to think of the whole picture.

    As far as the water birth, the fact that the midwife is advising you that she's had babies that have aspirated water would be enough of a reason for me to not give birth in the tub.  IMO, it's not worth jeopardizing the baby's health.  Labor in the tub as long as you can and when it's time to push, you can get out and do it somewhere else you feel comfortable.

  • image mh2t:

    I also don't think waterbirth is "natural" for humans.  For whales, hippopotami, seahorses, sure, but not for humans.  We are not water beings.  We can't breathe underwater, and we don't instinctively swim. 

    Babies spend nine months living in amniotic fluid. They receive oxygen through the umbilical cord. You can read the reasons babies do not inhale or breathe water on this website. It explains it really well and concisely: http://www.givingbirthnaturally.com/giving-birth-in-water.html

    I personally think water births are a very natural way for a baby to enter the world, and a lot of people have really skewed opinions of what it entails. It works with the baby, not against it and the risks are very minimal...especially if you have midwives or professionals in attendance who are experienced in it.

     

  • I ended up having a waterbirth with my second.  I delivered at a birth center and I knew they had birth tubs, but I didn't really think I would use them and I was so sure I wouldn't actually deliver in one. 

    Well when I got to the birth center I was like 4 cm.  My MW wanted me to wait about a half hour before getting in the tub if I wanted.  I decided to try it.  Turns out, it was the perfect place for me to be and I was so much more comfortable once I got in.  I ended up delivering in the tub and it was a million times better than delivering my first in a hospital bed.  A friend of mine went to the same center and she stuck a toe in the birth pool and decided she didn't want to get in (she was planning to have a waterbirth).  It's different for everyone.  I think following your own body cues is the most important thing. 

    Mama to Lucy (7/06), Lexi (5/09), and Max (11/11) M/C 12/17/10
  • People all over the world throughout history have delivered in a whole variety of positions, situations, using different props or methods. To say that our "forebears" didn't birth in water seems like a weak argument for it being "unnatural". And I bet you anything, some of our "forebears" did!?

    For what it's worth, I had a perfectly healthy and normal waterbirth with DS, and actually nobody ever mentioned concerns to me before he was born.?

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  • My midwife is highly supportive and excited about my plan to have a waterbirth and so are her birth assistants. I dont see how it can be considered "unnatural" when the baby has been living in amniotic fluid aka waters for the last 40+ weeks. 

    Also, I dont remember the exact stats but it is pretty rare for a baby to aspirate the water as they are only in there for a second until you bring them up. It is pretty unusual for a baby to attempt to breathe until air hits their nose and mouth.

  • I was at a natural friendly hospital.

    I spent a lot of time in the pool but got out because midwife wanted better access, she was worried about LO being stuck. i could have birthed in the pool if necessary.

    I'm a big fan of whatever works on the day.

    I ended up pushing LO out on my back (even though I was very anit it going into labour) and couldn't have imagined doing it any other way. My legs were in no state to bare any kind of weight and the birthing stool I found really uncomfortable. 

    So have a plan but be prepared for your own body to respond in its own way. 

    The water was fabulous for pain relief, but I didn't need it for pushing. 

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  • I'm planning on a water birth because I feel as though it is a much gentler environment for my baby to be born in.  She'll have spent 9 mos in a warm, dark, wet environment, to be then pushed out into a bright, cold, dry one is so traumatic.  What sounds better to you?
  • image bluejayway:
    image mh2t:

    I also don't think waterbirth is "natural" for humans.  For whales, hippopotami, seahorses, sure, but not for humans.  We are not water beings.  We can't breathe underwater, and we don't instinctively swim. 

    Babies spend nine months living in amniotic fluid. They receive oxygen through the umbilical cord. You can read the reasons babies do not inhale or breathe water on this website. It explains it really well and concisely: http://www.givingbirthnaturally.com/giving-birth-in-water.html

    This is true, but isn't it the development of the lungs and their readiness to breathe air that triggers labor?  If so, it still seems to me that waterbirth isn't entirely "natural" for humans, and that was the question.  But I don't have a problem with that - and like I said, if being the tub had helped me at all during my labor, it's likely I would have refused to get out for pushing. 

  • image mh2t:
    image bluejayway:
    image mh2t:

    I also don't think waterbirth is "natural" for humans.  For whales, hippopotami, seahorses, sure, but not for humans.  We are not water beings.  We can't breathe underwater, and we don't instinctively swim. 

    Babies spend nine months living in amniotic fluid. They receive oxygen through the umbilical cord. You can read the reasons babies do not inhale or breathe water on this website. It explains it really well and concisely: http://www.givingbirthnaturally.com/giving-birth-in-water.html

    This is true, but isn't it the development of the lungs and their readiness to breathe air that triggers labor?  If so, it still seems to me that waterbirth isn't entirely "natural" for humans, and that was the question.  But I don't have a problem with that - and like I said, if being the tub had helped me at all during my labor, it's likely I would have refused to get out for pushing. 

    It just seems more natural to me because I imagine it being more comfortable for the baby...a gentler way to transition into the big bright world. A baby comes out when it can no longer grow and develop in the womb (for a variety of biological reasons) not because it needs air all of the sudden.

    I have no idea how it'll go on the actual day, and if I don't end up feeling like actually delivering in the water that's perfectly fine, too. But in my opinion, it's a very natural way to do it. 

  • Thanks, ladies!  I really wanted to hear your personal experiences, so thanks for sharing.  I do tend to still think that water birth is safe.  Now, I just have to decide which way I'm going to go...  
  • image bluejayway:
    image mh2t:

    I also don't think waterbirth is "natural" for humans.? For whales, hippopotami, seahorses, sure, but not for humans.? We are not water beings.? We can't breathe underwater, and we don't instinctively swim.?

    Babies spend nine months living in amniotic fluid. They receive oxygen through the umbilical cord. You can read the reasons babies do not inhale or breathe water on this website. It explains it really well and concisely:?http://www.givingbirthnaturally.com/giving-birth-in-water.html

    I personally think water births are a very natural way for a baby to enter the world, and a lot of people have really skewed opinions of what it entails. It works with the baby, not against it and the risks are very minimal...especially if you have midwives or professionals in attendance who are experienced in it.

    ?

    This!?

  • I think it's natural.  Most of the ppl in my birth class were planning for a waterbirth at home with our MW.  I labored in the tub for awhile during my son's birth and it was great.  I didn't want to give birth in it, but I wish I could have labored longer in it (I ended up with a hospital birth bc we were 23 days past EDD and had a little PIT, IV, and constant monitoring...it's not what we wanted, but our baby was born safe and healthy and even though we had to change our plan, the hospital staff tried their best to res-pect our wishes.)
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