The Hospital-Based Water Birth

imagesIt’s funny that I didn’t consider a water birth during most of my pregnancy, despite water being my element… I grew up on an island and basically swam as early as I could walk (okay, not exactly, but pretty close…)

Despite the fact that for my first baby I do not feel 100% ready for a home birth, I was thrilled to find out that Phelps Memorial Hospital has three birthing tubs. When my husband and I visited the hospital, I was blown away by how relaxing they looked… basically giant Jacuzzi tubs.

But besides simply being relaxing, there are many advantages to laboring naturally in water. Here are a few reasons why many midwives and obstetricians recommend it:

Water brings pain relief. Although the results aren’t as effective as drugs, women have been delivering naturally in shallow water for centuries. Psychologically, women feel a sense of safety, but also control and privacy (the tub is an enclosed space that is their own.)

The buoyancy of water allows women to “move more easily, change positions better for birthing, and that along with the warmth brings relaxation and hormonal surges that are natural pain relievers.” ( Being in water has also been showed to increase a woman’s energy in the later stages of labor.

Water may alleviate contractions because of improved blood flow in the uterus. Water births may also keep blood pressure low and decrease the risk of a long labor (and possible need for intervention).

Water births decrease the incidence and severity of tearing (and hemorrhage) over some more traditional birth positions outside of water.

Babies have what is called bradycardic response, meaning that they instinctively know to hold their breath under water. Being born in water is actually similar to the feeling of floating in amniotic fluid, therefore eases the stress of the birth on your baby. It is totally safe for a baby to be born underwater as long as the baby does not experience stress in the birth canal and that the umbilical cord does not become kinked or twisted (the baby might gasp for air and swallow bath water.)

I can definitely see myself having a water birth. I will definitely try it out to help with contractions during active labor… and we’ll see how I feel during transition and pushing! Would you consider it?

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

One thought on “The Hospital-Based Water Birth

  1. This is some really good information about water birth. My best friend just found out that she is pregnant. She is considering doing a natural birth. So, I liked that you talked about how water birth can be a natural way to relieve the pain of a natural birth.

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