Water birth: how safe?
Studies have shown that planned home birth in a clean environment is actually safer than hospital delivery. If that fact were more widely known, perhaps home birth would be more broadly practiced in the USA, where it is now a very small percentage of total birth.
For nine months the infant develops inside the mother's body, nestled in the warm amniotic fluid. If all is well and normal, the baby floats in its dark, secure, cozy nest supported and protected, with all its needs met immediately.
Imagine then, a gentle introduction to the world by being born in water. Warm fluid is the element most familiar and comfortable to the fragile infant, so he or she does not experience fear or pain when coming in contact with it.
The room is semi-dark, to avoid a shock to the baby's eyes, and quiet, except for some soothing music. Mother is in the warm tub feeling relieved, her weight supported by the water. The comfort of the bath relaxes her tension and eases her labor pains, while providing the freedom to move into whatever position is most comfortable.
Water is such an effective painkiller that only about 10% of women who enter the tub during labor request painkilling drugs. Father may also be in the tub, holding or massaging mother. Ideally, the midwife, nurse or doctor waits patiently nearby, offering the mother encouragement and support whenever it is needed.
Typically, women who deliver in water report a feeling of excitement and lasting personal empowerment that simply cannot be matched by standard hospital birthing procedures.
With a water birth, the baby is not taken away from the mother at birth, which can result in the infant experiencing fear, confusion, feelings of abandonment and even terror. Instead, the baby stays with the parents and is held and cuddled by both of them, so that it will feel secure and nurtured, and the important bonding process can take place.
Because warm water is so soothing, it comforts the woman and helps her cooperate with her own body, so that she can open up more easily and have a natural and relatively pain free birth. Since over 90% of water birth mothers use no drugs, they deliver while awake, aware and in control of the process, a joyous, empowering experience that stays with them forever.