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You may have heard about a new way to give birth--in water. Natural water births are increasingly popular with women looking for a different way to give birth. However, there are some things to keep in mind if you're going to give birth in water including safety concerns, possible restrictions and that you will not be able to get pharmacological pain relief. But proponents of water births emphasize its peace, and theorize that it's better for mothers and babies. Babies are more gently eased into the world, coming into a water environment that they're used to, rather than an air environment. In mothers, water births decrease their pain level, may speed up birth (once the mother's past early labor) and may decrease the possibility of perineal tears.
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Find a Birthing Tub
To give birth in water, the first thing you're going to need is water in a tub. If you're giving birth at a hospital, find out if your hospital or another in your area does natural water births. If you're planning on a home birth you'll either have to use a large tub in your home or rent/buy an inflatable, portable birthing tub you can set up wherever you want. If you're having a home birth chances are your midwife knows how to get you a portable tub.
You will also have to make sure you can control the temperature of the water. Too hot or too cold can stress the baby. Controlling the water temperature may be as simple as using a thermometer and adding or subtracting water.
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Understand There may be Restrictions
While giving birth in water is very comfortable and safe for the majority of pregnant women, many care providers have restrictions and won't allow every woman to give birth in a tub. In general, your birth should be low risk, you should not have an infection, gestational diabetes, a genital lesion, bleeding disorders, be attempting a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) or be delivering multiples.
If your care provider doesn't want you to deliver in water, see if you can pass part of your labor in the tub. This will make your labor a little easier and may help you to avoid an epidural or other interventions.
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It Will be a Natural Water Birth
One of the benefits or drawbacks, depending on your point of view, to water births is that you can't have pain medication. Your care provider will not give you a shot of narcotics while you're in the tub since narcotics can make you dizzy and you may injure yourself in the tub. They also will not give you an epidural since an epidural takes away the strength in your legs. it's not safe for you to be a tub without any leg strength.
However, most women find they don't need pain medicine while in a birthing tub. Being surrounded by water takes away the pressure and most of the pain sensation related to labor. This is partially because of how much we relax in warm water and partially because of the buoyancy of being surrounded by water. That's why natural water births are called the midwife's epidural.
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One big concern many people have while giving birth in water is the baby drowning. This is a rare complication since babies will not take their first breath until they feel air on their face. However, if the baby's face does come out of the water, extreme caution should be taken so the face does not go back down under water. If drowning is a concern to you, you should discuss this issue with your care provider.
Your care provider will also monitor the water temperature (too hot or too cold could stress the baby) and make sure the water's not so deep that they can't see what's going on. You should also expect your care provider to monitor your baby's heartbeat with a fetal monitor and they may check your vitals periodically as well.
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Discuss the Afterbirth Process
One of the drawbacks to birthing in water is the delivery of the placenta. While the placenta can be delivered in water with few complications, it's very messy and may not be something you want to deal with. Depending on your care provider, they may want you to actually get out of the tub before you birth the placenta. Be sure to discuss this with your care provider as you decide whether or not to have a water birth.