Planning On Using Water For Comfort In Labour ?
Water is available to most women in labour. It does depend on your care provider so if labouring in water is important to you please make sure you will have access to it for birth. If during your pregnancy this option changes due to a change in circumstances for example if the hospital tells you that “due to x,y,z you no longer have access to water for labour” its a good idea to ask to see the procedure or policy that lists that “risk factor”.
What are the benefits of warm water during labour?
Warm water can be very effective for comfort and pain relief during labour. Labouring in water has also been shown to reduce the need for drugs and interventions, particularly epidurals. Warm water can help to reduce stress hormones that can inhibit labour and reduce pain by increasing the production of endorphins. Heat can ease muscular tension allowing you to move through labour gently. Water provides support and a feeling of weightlessness that enables labouring women to relax. A shower can provide directed warm pressure to a specific area while a bath gives a physical space around a labouring mother and the feeling of buoyancy and weightlessness.
What options do you have?
Using water as a comfort measure in labour is very common and often not included in the earlier stages of a birth plan. There are two ways you can include water in your birth preferences. A bath (which may not necessarily be a bath you can birth in) or a shower. Your choice may be limited by availability at your place of birth so it’s best to discuss your interest with your care providers to ensure access. If you labour at home for as long as you’re comfortable you can do whatever you like 🙂
When can I get in?
You can get in whenever you like really but most women wait until the intensity of contractions increase. This usually happens in established labour, which means that you’re having regular contractions (about every five minutes) and they are lasting about one minute. If water immersion is on your birth plan, your birth support or care provider may suggest it as a comfort measure as necessary.
When should I get out ?
If you have discussed your preference for water birth with your care provider then you could stay in the bath and deliver your baby there. If this isn’t an option where you are birthing you may be asked to leave the bath when your baby is close to being born. If water birth is really important to you make sure your birth team are aware of this. Showers during labour are available in almost all birth facilities. Leaving the shower to birth your baby is up to you but many babies are born there so if you’re comfortable to stay, you should. If your care provider becomes concerned about you or your baby while using water for comfort you may be asked to jump out for monitoring. You may also be encouraged to have a walk around and a wee every few hours.
Do you know you can use a comb to reduce pain during contractions? It really works! Accupressure and disruption of the Pain Gateway Theory reduces the sensation of contractions.
Are there any restrictions to warm water immersion in labour?
Water immersion can sometimes be discouraged by birth workers if
- You are showing signs of infection such as an increased temperature
- You go into labour before 37 weeks
- You have a history of pregnancy complications or previous birth complications
- You have a BMI outside of the hospital policy range.
Access to a bath or shower during labour may be an issue depending on the facilities at your place of birth so make sure to ask your care provider well in advance.
Things to Consider
- The bath or pool must be filled with just water, leave the oils for another day.
- You should keep well hydrated throughout labour to avoid dehydration.
- You may be asked to leave the bath to wee….but well that’s entirely up to you 😀
- Water temp should have you feeling comfortably warm not too hot or cold.
- Your support person needs swimming clothing to get in with you.
- You generally cannot have an injection for pain relief or an epidural when in the water, but it is possible to use gas if you wish.
- Water immersion generally only allows for intermittent monitoring. Discuss monitoring with your care providers and how you can achieve your preferences. There may be some water suitable continuous monitoring available.
If you don’t have access to a bath or shower you could use compresses. These would be especially good for lower back relief and the towel could also be used as a counter-pressure measure.
If just for warmth, a face washer soaked in hot water and squeezed out applies focused heat to a small area. They can go cold quickly so your birth support might be busy going back and forth.
Use a bath towel for a larger lower back and bum area. By holding the tails of the towel and pushing against the pelvis you can apply relief for lower back contractions.
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