Immersion in water is associated with many benefits during labor and delivery, leading more doctors and midwives to recommend water births for low-risk patients.
Bonsie spoke with Sue Turner, a licensed midwife with 27 years of experience and the owner of The Ventura Birth Center, about water birth. Before becoming a midwife, Sue was a childbirth educator and doula. She’s experienced in birth center birth, home birth, water birth, postpartum care and well woman care.
Sue recommends water birth to her patients because she believes it’s less painful for mothers and more peaceful for babies.
“I feel it decreases the feeling of intensity of the contractions by 50%, is a familiar environment to babies since they live in water and decreases tearing of the perineum.”
When comparing a water birth to a non-water birth, Sue said that “the biggest difference is the calmness of the baby's at birth, decreased tearing of the perineum, and relaxation and natural pain relief for women giving birth as well.”
According to the American Pregnancy Association, benefits of water births include:
Reduced pain for mom
Reduced risk of tearing
Reduced stress for mom and baby
More buoyancy for movement and changing positions
More efficient contractions
More oxygen for baby
Improved blood circulation
Increase in endorphins
Similar to the calmness and security that water provides, skin-to-skin contact makes babies feel safe and at home after birth. Sue shared the following information about the incredible benefits:
“Skin to skin contact in the immediate moments after birth is very important. According to studies, skin to skin contact increases bonding, decreases anxiety, decreases postpartum depression and increases immediate breastfeeding readiness. Babies know their Mom's scent starting in the womb so going directly onto Mom's chest is a comfort after all the hard work of labor! I have seen babies born where there were complications, visibly upset and as soon as they got skin to skin on Mom they stopped crying and all was well! Another interesting fact is that the WHO recommends pre term babies spend 8-24 hours a day skin to skin to promote normal physiological growth such as heart rate, body temperature and digestion.”
Bonsie also chatted with Emily Bown about her recent water birth. Emily is a mom of two, a registered dietitian and her husband is a chiropractor. Her family lives in Orange County, California.
Emily chose a water birth for a couple of reasons.
“My first birth was so fast I barely made it to the hospital. We got there at 9:40am and I had my daughter at 9:50am.”
In addition, Emily was not impressed with her experience in a hospital during her first birth.
“I was not a fan of the medical system. I was very uncomfortable, unheard, and unseen. I wanted to feel safe and empowered during this birth. I wanted to be as present and comfortable as possible and this was the best and most natural option and I loved every minute of it.”
We also asked Emily what she specifically liked about laboring and giving birth in the water.
“It was 100% more soothing, peaceful, and calming! I even told my midwives between contractions I felt like I was at a spa! The water helped keep me comfortable and calm and present since I could feel the warmth and pressure of it around me! Not sure about the pain because both were so fast I can’t remember - but overall it gave me a sense of space , a feeling of warmth and calmness, and helped keep me present! It just felt so nice!”
Emily’s water birth was a transformative experience and speaks volumes about the positive outcomes for mom and baby.
“I DID IT - and got to watch and guide Frankie slowly through the water up to the surface for his first moment of air and into the world…
...and then immediately to my chest where I started tearing up and smiling out of pure accomplishment and joy. He was perfect and I accomplished the most empowering, amazing, life-altering experience of my life: being present, aware, and in control the entire time!”
Additional Resources to learn more about Sue and Emily:
Water Birth. American Pregnancy Association.