The relaxation and pain-relieving benefits of water are well-known; many women who have had babies in and out of water will attest to this.
Once you have decided to have your baby with a midwife, and decided on the birth setting that feels right to you, you should explore other resources which can enhance your birth experience.
Are you interested in waterbirth? In addition to the relaxation and pain-relieving benefits of water, laboring in water allows the woman to move freely and change position unhampered. This is helpful to the baby’s descent in the birth canal. Babies born in water tend to be quiet and calm, although alert. Barbara Harper, R.N., is the doyenne of waterbirth, and her website, www.waterbirth.org, will tell you about the advantages of this option. The site includes a number of photographs of women laboring and giving birth in the tub. Barbara’s organization, Waterbirth International, is working to change in the way families prepare to give birth. Waterbirth International provides up-to date educational materials for pregnant couples and refer them to practitioners who support them in making informed decisions about their health care and who view birth as a completely natural process, not a medical event. You can purchase a birth tub from Waterbirth International or from www.aquadoula.com.
Karil Daniels’ Waterbirth Website at www.waterbirthinfo.com was the first waterbirth site on the internet. It provides extensive and in-depth information on waterbirth, including a tutorial, a Waterbirth Photo Gallery, details on preparation for and benefits of waterbirth, dozens of firsthand waterbirth stories, and information about the multiple award-winning video, “WATER BABY: Experiences of Water Birth” (endorsed by many top experts in the field) and the Waterbirth Resources List, which includes 700 listings of practitioners and facilities that provide waterbirth services and support.
Most birth centers have birthing tubs, and more hospitals are adding them to the “features” of their maternity units. However, having a tub and having providers and staff who are enthusiastic about using the tub for births are two different things. When you speak with a childbirth educator or a nurse when you are touring the hospital (or during a childbirth education class), ask how often the tub is used and who can use it. Many obstetricians are uncomfortable with birth tubs (it gives more control to the mother, less to them!) and may state that they are fine with the tub, then find a pretext (or, sometimes, a good reason) to ask the mother to get out of the tub and onto the bed as the birth becomes imminent Ask your midwife or your doctor if she/he is comfortable with waterbirth. How many waterbirths has she attended? How often has she had to ask a mom to get out of the tub during the labor, and for what reason? In the eventuality that you are asked to get out of the tub at some point during labor, you will feel better about it if you know there is a good reason. In my experience, the most common reason was that the labor was slowing down, and mom needed to get out and walk around for awhile, then get back into the tub for the birth.