We are so thankful that our partner, Jessica Anderson, MSN, CNM, WHNP-BC at the Center for Midwifery at UCHealth‘s University of Colorado Hospital shared this very important information with us!
Have you ever considered birthing your baby in the water? Water birth is an amazing, empowering, safe option where women labor and birth their baby in warm water.
Water birth is not new, but finding a place that does water birth is not always easy. Through its Center for Midwifery practice, UCHealth‘s University of Colorado Hospital is one of the few facilities in the Metro Denver area offering this option to expecting families. The Center for Midwifery has offered safe, water birthing since the 1990s, bringing joy and high satisfaction for families.
A little history: In the 1970s, Russian scientists thought that birthing under water would be more gentle and gradual for babies. The water birth movement was also part of the gentle birth movement made popular by Dr. Frederick Leboyer, a French obstetrician.
Michel Odent, another French doctor and believer in water birth, helped to make water birth popular in Europe. Interest spread rapidly in France, Belgium, and England. Mothers, who wanted a gentle experience for their baby, also found that laboring and giving birth in water provided some pain relief and satisfaction.
Here are some common questions about water birth.
Water is soothing, relaxing, and peaceful. Some possible benefits of water birth are increased comfort and relaxation, decreased use of pain medications and procedures, decreased time in labor, increased ability to change positions, decreased extensive tearing and increased mother satisfaction. Women who want a gentle, non-interventive birth absent of pain medication often seek this option out.
Who is eligible to have a water birth?
Women who are healthy with no health concerns and have routine care and testing during the pregnancy. In addition, you must be 37 weeks, have a healthy baby who is head down with a reassuring heart rate, and clear amniotic fluid. Sometimes the health care team may determine that birth out of water is the best option for a family.
Does the baby take a breath in the water?
Healthy babies with normal heart rate patterns have protective mechanisms, which prevent them from taking a breath under water.
What about infection for mom and baby?
Studies of water labor and water birth have not demonstrated increased overall rates of maternal or neonatal infection following immersion during any stage of labor, regardless of whether the water bag has broken or not.
What does a water birth look like?
Women labor in the water and when it comes time to push, they push in the water. Your Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) or Registered Nurse (RN) will frequently monitor the baby’s heart rate while you are in the water. Often women will get in and out of the pool to try other modalities during labor. Your Certified Nurse-Midwife will guide the baby into the water at the time of birth and gently guide the child to the surface of the water where the child takes his or her first breaths. Mom will hold baby close to her chest while the two remain in the water to allow the baby time to transition and stay warm. In time, the mother and child receive help getting out of the pool, and the placenta delivered and perineum inspected for lacerations.
Who can have a water birth?
Water birth is reserved for women who are low risk and having an uneventful labor and birth. There are certain conditions such as diabetes in pregnancy, high blood pressure conditions, and meconium-stained fluid, which would preclude a mother from birthing in the water. Women who are determined to be at risk for water birth may labor in the water but deliver on land.
Are there any risks with water birth?
Umbilical cord tearing, challenges for the midwife to manage emergencies at the time of birth, water aspiration for the baby and challenges with supporting your body to prevent tearing are some of the very few unlikely risks, which can occur with a birth in water.
Recently, professional organizations have released statements regarding water births. The American College of Nurse Midwives maintains that laboring women should have options for pain relief during labor, including the use of hydrotherapy during labor and birth. Evidence supports that women who have uncomplicated pregnancies and labors and limited risk factors have similar outcomes for mom and baby whether they give birth in or out of water.
Water birth is a great option for the right mother in an environment where the providers are trained to offer this option. The Center for Midwifery also offers a complementary consult class twice a month for mothers to learn more about our practice and alternative modalities.
Jessica Anderson, MSN, CNM, WHNP-BC is a Senior Instructor at the University of Colorado College of Nursing and Director for the Center for Midwifery at UCHealth‘s University of Colorado Hospital. She joined the University of Colorado faculty in 2005 from Wisconsin where she completed her graduate education at Marquette University. Jessica’s professional interests include exercise in pregnancy, water birth, nitrous oxide for labor, women’s health care policy, quality improvement, and immunizations. She is active on committees with the March of Dimes, Colorado Health Department, Colorado Hospital Association, and the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM). She is currently President of the ACNM Colorado Affiliate and is in the process of completing her Doctorate in Nursing Practice at the University of Colorado.