What Water Birth Supplies Do I Need?
Learn what supplies you must have and what supplies are helpful to have.
1) The "Must Haves"
A labor & birth pool. (these run from $25-$450), and these three items:
2) Other Supplies:
We will list these supplies in the order of most useful.
“It is a great transition from the womb into the world, and that was really an important thing for me,” says Lisa Valiani, who delivered her baby girl Sofia underwater last May. “I didn’t want her coming out into the bright lights and cold, and you know, sterile environment. I really wanted the transition to be very loving and gentle.”
Hydrotherapy for labor and delivery, or waterbirthing as it is commonly called, eases pain while offering mother and baby a more relaxing environment, say enthusiasts. Increasingly, hospitals and birth centers offer the popular option to enhance the natural birth process. British researchers report that waterbirths pose no greater danger for low risk mothers and babies than traditional birthing practices.
HYDROTHERAPY FOR LABOR
“ Hydrotherapy is a method that has actually been around for a long time. We have just instituted here in the last couple of years as a way of alleviating pain during labor,” says Joel Heller, MD, gynecologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
The mother labors in a tub of warm water, and the baby gets oxygen through the umbilical cord. “As long as the baby stays under the water, and the cord is attached to mom, and the placenta is intact, respiration occurs through the placenta, not through the lungs,” explains Dr. Heller.
As soon as the baby is lifted to the surface, he or she takes a deep breath. “It’s one of the amazing physiologic changes of birth,” says Dr. Heller, “that all of a sudden, the lungs take over.”
Some mothers can’t give birth in the tub due to the large size of their baby. Others have complicating conditions such as preeclampsia, or hypertension during pregnancy, or severe diabetes, which make waterbirthing difficult.
Women chose waterbirthing as an alternative to easing labor pain with traditional methods including narcotic medications and epidural analgesia. Exactly how the water relieves discomfort is still not known, but doctors take the mother’s word for it.
“The physiologic mechanism hasn’t really been elucidated,” says Dr. Heller. “Moms tell us how they’re feeling.”
“It’s a nice, gentle way for the baby to enter the world,” says Carol Hirschfield, certified nurse midwife at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “And when they do come out, their posture is a little bit more relaxed.”
Herschfield adds that she doesn’t think waterbirthing relieves the pain of contractions. “But somehow it changes the patient’s perspective. Every single person that gets in the tub, goes ‘ahhh.’ Everybody!”
“We have had some dads put on bathing suits, and get in the tub as well,” says Dr. Heller. “They help out by giving a massage, holding hands, and helping with the legs at the time of pushing.”
ALTERNATIVE TO PAIN RELIEVERS
Dr. Heller explains that women who choose waterbirthing usually don’t receive traditional pain relievers. “When people are in water, you want them to be able to protect themselves, and their airway.
“Sometimes if they have an epidural, the legs aren’t working so good,” he adds. “In an emergency situation, it could be hard to get a person out. The epidural is serving the place of what we would put people in the tub for anyway, which is relaxation and pain relief. The same is true for narcotics.”
Valiani says she was never really fearful of the birthing process. “Because I knew the midwives were terrific, and because I was going to give birth in the hospital.”
The comfort factor of being in the hospital remains an important issue for many, but not all, women. Birthing centers offer alternatives that some women prefer, and some moms still want to give birth at home.
The Centers for Disease Control report that physician assisted births decreased by 1 percent in recent years, while births handled by midwives increased by 1 percent.
Dr. Heller says a hospital setting today can be almost as natural as the home. “With the added bonus of God forbid, if something bad goes on, we can deal with it immediately.”
“My job is to let people know what’s available, what’s safe and effective, and then help them do it, however they want. Whatever moms are comfortable with.”
For Valiani and her husband, waterbirthing worked out fine. “It was just a really fantastic opportunity to be in a warm, soothing environment where you are bringing a child into the world in a very nice way. And it definitely helped with the contractions,” says Valiani.