When submerged in water, the body experiences only 15% of the effects of gravity, thus reducing muscular strain and pressure for the pregnant body with the growing demands of the baby. Water creates a buoyant support for the mother to move in three dimensions and be in comfortable positions without having to work as hard to support the weight of her own body. When immersed in water, the body also needs less oxygen, thus more of the body’s resources go to healing and regeneration. Floating in water can remind us of the baby’s experience, stirring our own deep primal memories of beginning our lives in the watery womb.
Warm water creates a soothing and buoyant medium for a laboring woman to relax her mind and body and birth her baby with ease. Waterbirth is a growing trend among women desiring gentle non-medicated births. The warm water significantly decreases the tension and pain a woman experiences, thus warm water immersion in labor is often referred to as an “aqua-dural” by midwives and doulas. The water can reduce the pain a women feels by half, while also supporting and facilitating labor contractions to be more effective. Waterbirth also creates a gentle supportive environment for the baby to be born into, allowing the baby to have a gentle transition to the world beyond the womb.
In labor, the birthing pool should be deep enough to fully cover the mother’s belly and back, providing optimal soothing pain relief through immersion. The temperature should be comfortable to the mother, not too hot or cold. A pool designed for birthing will provide enough depth for full belly coverage, as well as room for the mother to move into different positions. In the water the mother can be on her hands and knees, leaning forward over the edge of the pool, squatting, supported squat, leaning back on the side of the pool and more. The water gently supports the mother to be in a variety of positions while keeping the pelvis open and the muscles of the hips, pelvis, thighs, and bottom relaxed, allowing optimal room for the the baby to be born.
Water in labor works best if the woman is already in active labor by the time she enters the pool. Then immersion in the water will speed up the rest of her labor, while also reduced pain and increasing mobility. If the woman is in early labor, being in the water may slow labor down. During a prolonged early labor, or during pre-term labor, taking a warm bath or shower may help to relax the uterus and space out contractions allowing the mother to get rest. However, early labor is a great time for working with gravity, walking and being upright. During active labor the water is gentle and supportive of the times of hard labor, transition, pushing, and emergence. Surrounded by warm water in a birthing pool, a laboring woman feels a safe boundary around her, and may feel more private and comfortable, even when surrounded by birthing attendants and family. The water creates intimacy and comfort, it is soothing and relaxing.
A baby born underwater experiences a gentle transition from womb to world. While underwater they are in a similar environment as in the womb, as well as still fully enveloped by the mother’s energy field which permeates the water. The baby is not stimulated to breath or transition to air oxygenation until the face, mouth, and nose surface above the water. Until surfacing the baby is still getting oxygen from the blood from the placenta and intact umbilical cord. The baby is able to be born gently in a reduced gravity environment, allowing the baby to integrate the journey through the birth passage before being introduced to 85% more gravity upon their body.
Waterbirthing is one aspect of the continuum of water for pregnancy, birth, and infancy. While the baby is young, they are learning to move and control their body as it is growing rapidly. Babies who are trained in water, infant swimming, and waterplay are able to experience being immersed in an aquatic environment that supports their optimal brain growth and makes learning movements of the body and coordination easier. This allows the brain to make the necessary connections to support optimal movement and development without having to battle gravity and weight at the same time. Water babies grow strong quickly and show remarkable coordination, tone, friendliness, and confidence.
Water is a healing medium for women and babies to experience regularly in pregnancy, birth, and infancy. The powers of water assist in deep relaxation, vitality, and movement of the body. Water immersion, exercise, bodywork, and relaxation are incredible modalities for people in all stages of life for optimal health.