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Water Birth An Alternative Delivery Method
By Rebecca Chauvin, MSN, CNM, ARNP / February 1, 2014

Today, more than ever, parents are looking for alternative choices for their families' health and well-being.

Parents are purchasing organic foods and opting out of certain vaccina-tions for their children. Families are buying toys made out of natural materials that encourage learning and sensory for-mation. Parents are questioning old practices and seeking alternative methods of caring for their children. Having a baby is no exception to this trend.

Many years ago, in an effort to take away the burden and pain of birth, doctors brought one of the most natural pro-cesses from the home into the hospital. Epidurals have be-come commonplace for pain management and induction of labor has been considered a convenience for both patient and provider. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has recently changed its definition of a full-term pregnancy and its thoughts on induction of labor, in an effort to reduce medical interventions in labor and delivery. Before OB/GYN doctors, birth was largely un-assisted, unmedicated, and carried out in the home.


The birthing paradigm has shifted. Birth is considered natural, yet again. Women are being encouraged to go into labor on their own which, in the absence of complications, is considered safer.

Water birth is hardly a new phenomenon. Hydrotherapy has been used for centuries as a form of relaxation and pain re-lief. There are documented water births as far back as an-cient Egypt. Women in Europe would travel to "labor pools" for delivery.

Today, many women associate water birth with home birth or birthing centers. What many families may not know is that water birth is also available in hospitals. More and more OB/GYN practices offer alternative birthing choices to their patients while laboring within a hospital, including water birth.

What makes a water birth a good choice? Labor is painful. How the mother deals with the pain of labor is important. The body's response to the stress of labor can actually slow down the labor process. Hormones produced by the body in response to pain can cause labor contractions to decrease significantly, prolonging the labor.

When a laboring woman enters a tub of warm water, the pain

of her contractions can be significantly reduced. The buoy-ancy she experiences allows her to move freely and change positions easily. This not only gives the woman control over her labor, but also provides a means for pain management. With the resulting relaxation, labor can proceed much more quickly and easily, in most cases.

Water birth isn't for everyone. In order to be a candidate for water birth, you must have had a low-risk pregnancy. Women who experience complications, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, require continuous monitoring dur-ing labor. They are not candidates for this procedure.

Women who consider Water Birth alternative birth methods should pre-pare in advance. Speak with your health care provider be-fore you become pregnant or early in your pregnancy. Ask if he/she offers water birth and ask if you are a candidate. Attend childbirth preparation classes to assist with learning relaxation techniques and breathing methods.

There are a variety of books on water birth and alternative childbirth methods available for research. With the right preparation, the birthing process can be a wonderful and natura.l?event for parents and their newborns. ©

Rebecca Chauvin is a certified nurse-midwife and gynecologic nurse practitioner who practices at Royal Palm OB/GYN in Coral Springs.




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