Understanding Water Birth as a Childbirth Method

February 26, 2008

Giving birth is a very personal experience.  While some women want an epidural as soon as possible, others want to give birth at home.  One interesting childbirth method that some women are opting for these days is water births.  A water birth can either be done in a hospital or (more likely) at home.  Many people who experience a water birth rave about it. 

 Why Water Birth?

Many women believe that a water birth is a gentle way to bring a baby into the world.  As the baby leaves the mother's womb, he is leaving a soothing area of water.  They believe that entering the world in water is a soothing and relaxing experience for babies.  Water is also, most certainly, a more comfortable place for women to experience labor.  The weightlessness of the water takes pressure off of the mother's body and serves as a warm, comfortable place for her.  While it is often difficult for a woman to move positions during labor, the water helps her to move and allows women to feel empowered during delivery.  Research has shown that a water birth does reduce perienal trauma and eliminates many episiotomies.  In addition, the rate of Ceasarean sections is lower for women who deliver in the water.

The History of Water Birthing

Where did this idea originate?  During the 1960, a Russian researcher Igor Charkovsky studied the safety and benefits of water birth.  During the late 1960's, French obstetrician Frederick Leboyer immersed newly-born babies in warm water as soon as they were born.  He believed that this eased their transition and helped to lesson birthing trauma.  One French obstetrician researched the benefits, and potential problems, of being born under water, and opened a birthing center using the water birthing method.  By the late 1990's, thousands of women had given birth at Odent's center and the idea of birthing with water had spread to many Western countries.  While water birthing is still predominately done at home, there are many hospitals that do offer water births and that have adopted this practice.  Over 75% of the National Health Service hospitals in the UK give this as an option for laboring women.

A number of books have been written on the history and benefits of water birthing.  Dianne Garland, a midwife in the UK, has published a book called, Waterbirth: An Attitude to Care.  A United States nurse and childbirth educator named Barbara Harper has looked at the issue of water birth around the world and its current use; her book is called Gentle Birth Choices.

Water Births Today

An out home water birth can easily be arranged with the rental of a water birthing pool.  These Inflatable Birth Pools in a Box (BPIAB) are used all over Europe by thousands of women.  They have both regular and mini pools that were designed and built with the aid of midwives and mothers in focus group studies.  These pools inflate in 10-12 minutes and are sanitary and safe. 

Sometimes people remark that their children are really like "fish in water."  With a water birth, this statement will certainly be true!

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