Having a water birth has been steadily gaining in popularity in the United States for the past two decades. While it was first practiced in Europe in the 1980s, it was actually conceived of in the late 1960s. During that time a French OB proposed that immersing newly born babies in warm water would help to smooth out the transition from the environment inside of the mother’s womb to the environment outside.
A water birth typically will take place in a small pool. These pools are often similar in size to a Jacuzzi. In many cases, these pools may be rented. In other cases, a water birth may take place in a bathtub, assuming that the bathtub is large enough to allow the mother proper movement during delivery. There are a few, but not many, birth centers in the United States that have water birthing facilities. Most of the time, however, at least in the United States, a water birth will need to take place at home.
Proponents of water birth suggest several benefits to the practice. They suggest that it helps the mother to be able to relax. They suggest that the woman who is having a water birth will produce less stress-related adrenaline, and more relaxing endorphins. In addition, a water birth can often help the perineum to be more elastic, and thereby reduces the risk of either tearing or needing an episiotomy. Also, in a water birth, the mother has a lot more mobility in the water, creating less discomfort. There is even some research that suggests that her body may release more oxytocin, and make her labor more efficient.
A water birth is also thought to help the baby. It does this, as has been suggested, by helping with transition from the uterus to the real world. The liquid of the water, it is thought, resembles the environment in the uterus. In addition, the water makes light, colors, and noises softer.
If you are considering a water birth, you should talk to your health care provider to see if there are any reasons unique to your situation that might not make it a good idea. If it is appropriate, you might begin to look for a place from which you can rent a birthing pool or a birthing tub.