My Thoughts on Waterbirth
During my pregnancy with my second baby, I really wanted to give birth to
my baby at home in a birthing tub. I helped to prepare for the experience by reading
other birth stories about moms who had given birth in water, and I watched a
wonderful video on waterbirths. We rented a large inflatable tub from our
childbirth educator and set it up weeks before my due date. We bought all of our
homebirth supplies. We felt we were ready.
Of course, I didn't know if I would actually give birth at home in water, because birth is such an unpredictable thing, and with my first birth, though I
enjoyed laboring in water, I had a sudden urge to get out of the water to push.
Also, since our hot water tank is a little small, I worried that we wouldn't be
able to fill the birthing tub in time for the birth. We put it in God's hands,
praying that He would help me relax during labor and that our baby would have a
safe and gentle (and fast, but not too fast) birth.
Why did I want a waterbith? First of all, water can be a wonderful aid to
help moms relax during labor; this includes both showers and tubs. Birth will
have fewer complications and less need for medical intervention when mom relaxes
during labor. Baby will be much safer, as will mom. Many moms attest to the
powerful way that water helped them relax during labor.
Water helped me relax during my first birth. During labor I felt overwhelmed,
nervous, and very tense. My cotractions really hurt, especially after the doctor
broke my water. The nurse suggested that I get in the hot tub. The water helped
me calm down, and I went into a sleep-like mode. This relaxation made it
possible for me to dilate quickly. I doubt I could have made it through labor
without painkillers if I had not labored in the hot tub.
A lady from church told me of her experience laboring in a tub. Because her
contractions didn't feel very strong, she thought that being in the tub had
caused her labor to slow down too much. Her midwife suggested that she stay in
the water for a while longer. She did and when she finally got out of the water
she was ten centimeters dilated.
There is some concern that laboring in a tub too soon could slow labor down.
Some suggest that mom not get in the tub until she is around 5 centimeters
dilated. I personally had no trouble with this. The doctor chose to break my
water at 3 cm, and I soon after got into the water. I guess I could have dilated
one or two centimeters during the time he broke my water and the time I got in
the tub, but somehow it worked out fine. If being in the tub slows down a
mother's labor, she may want to get up and walk around a while until her labor
picks up again. Or perhaps she needs the break in the intensity of her labor and
a chance to rest. Mom needs to experiment and see what works best for her.
Another benefit of birthing in water is that water softens mom's perinium and
helps it to stretch over the baby's head easier. This lessens the chances of
Most importantly, I wanted my baby's transition into this world to be as
smooth and gentle as possible. Waterbirth provides an excellent way to achieve a
gentle birth. Some parents will be surprised to learn that babies do not have to
cry lustily when they are born. Dr. Frederick Leboyer, in his thought-provoking
book on gentle birth, Birth Without Violence, asks, "Does this crying
simply mean that all the reflexes are normal and that the machine works? So man
is nothing but a machine? Or could the cries be trying to express some pain,
some terrible sorrow. If the baby is crying with such intensity doesn't it mean
that he's suffering terribly? Could childbirth be as distressing for the child
as for the mother?" He goes on to clearly show that babies do not have to cry at
birth and illustrates ways to create a "gentle birth." One of Leboyer's concepts
for "gentle birth" is that the baby be given a warm, relaxing bath soon after
birth, and some look at waterbirth as a natural extension of gentle birth.
Waterbabies truly are often incredibly peaceful and alert at birth. One mom,
while sharing the birth story of her daughter Bethany Camille, wrote, "She
behaved just like what you hear sometimes happens in home or water births,
acting like she didn't quite realize that she'd been born. She never really did
cry, just gave a couple of mews and sighs and tried to open her eyes."
I did get to have a home waterbirth, and it was all I had dreamed it would
be! My baby decided to make his appearance exactly on his due date. Early that
morning, not knowing if I was really in labor, I took a bath and used all the
hot water up! So on top of having a small tank, there wasn't much hot water in the tank by
the time we realized we needed the tub filled. It seemed that my fear of not
having enough water could be coming true. . . but my husband heated the rest of
the water we needed on the stove, and it worked out fine.
Laboring in a tub of warm water helped me to be able to relax deeply. It gave
me the ability to quickly and easily change positions as my body felt the urge
to do so. Being in the birthing tub helped me to be able to easily squat without
getting too tired while pushing my baby out. I did not tear.
And, after six hours of labor, my baby experienced a peaceful entrance into this world when he gently swooshed into the warm, cleansing water early one December morning almost two
This article was updated on September 29, 2000. It can also be seen on Themestream.