Benefits for baby: Water birth is gentle
Barbara Harper, author of Seven Secrets of Successful Waterbirth and founder of Waterbirth International explains, "The water is the perfect place for babies to emerge from the warm fluid of the womb to the warm water of the birth pool. What better place to stretch and open the eyes, adjust to sound, sense the body and prepare for transformation from a fetus to a newborn. The water in the pool becomes the baby's extended womb with a view."
Benefits for mom: Water is nature's narcotic
Harper says, "The immediate pain reduction felt upon entering the bath is quite noticeable. It is what I refer to as the ahh effect." I agree. When I was in labor, I was downright miserable when I had contractions on land. Water in labor is like nature's narcotic -- it takes the edge off contractions but doesn't come along with medication side effects. Submerging your belly in warm water is incredibly relaxing -- and being relaxed can help speed up labor.
Water birth supplies
If you're having a home birth, there are a lot of water birth options: You can rent a birth tub, buy a kiddie pool, or give birth in a Jacuzzi or regular tub in your bathroom. I rented a birth pool and set it up in my bedroom! You will also need a thermometer, filter, and liner if you're renting a tub -- these items may be included with tub rental or purchase.
If you're having a hospital birth, find out if a water birth is an option. This way of giving birth has been happening forever, but it's still considered alternative by many doctors and hospitals.
Keep cool in warm water
It's important that you and your baby don't get overheated in the water. Harper says a comfortable temperature is usually around 95-100 degrees F. Make sure it's not over 101 degrees F -- many birth tubs come with floating thermometers. It's also a good idea to keep some cool washcloths nearby to place on your forehead, chest or back of your neck.
Is water birth for you
Talk to your midwife or doctor about any factors that may risk you out of having a water birth, like infection, high blood pressure, or if your bag of water has broken.
If you ultimately decide to give birth on land, simply laboring in water is a wonderful comfort measure to try.