So today's post contains basic information about waterbirth and addresses the typical concerns people might have about waterbirth.
In another post soon, we will discuss why some birth facilities have BMI restrictions on who can labor and birth in the water, and whether those restrictions really have any merit or not.
Why the Resistance to Waterbirth?
The following are the main concerns about waterbirth usually brought up by doctors and hospitals, along with research showing lack of harm from these issues, and how they can be dealt with proactively and safely.How Does The Baby Breathe?
There are four main factors that prevent the baby from
inhaling water at the time of birth:
1. Prostaglandin E2 levels from the placenta which cause a slowing down or stopping of the fetal breathing movements. When the baby is born and the Prostaglandin level is still high, the baby's muscles for breathing simply don't work, thus engaging the first inhibitory response.
2. Babies are born experiencing mild hypoxia or lack of oxygen. Hypoxia causes apnea and swallowing, not breathing or gasping.
3. Water is a hypotonic solution and lung fluids present in the fetus are hypertonic. So, even if water were to travel in past the larynx, they could not pass into the lungs based on the fact that hypertonic solutions are denser and prevent hypotonic solutions from merging or coming into their presence.
4. The last important inhibitory factor is the Dive Reflex and revolves around the larynx. The larynx is covered all over with chemoreceptors or taste buds. The larynx has five times as many as taste buds as the whole surface of the tongue. So, when a solution hits the back of the throat, passing the larynx, the taste buds interprets what substance it is and the glottis automatically closes and the solution is then swallowed, not inhaled.
Concern about Infection
Difficulty of Evaluating Blood Loss During Waterbirth
The difficulty of evaluating blood loss during waterbirth is a legitimate concern. In all births, care providers must watch mothers carefully to be sure they are not bleeding excessively after the placenta detaches. Care providers learn how to estimate blood loss in land births, but this is more difficult in water because the water dilutes the blood. As a result, some hospitals forbid waterbirth altogether, while others require women to get out of the water after the baby is born and to birth the placenta on dry land.
However, this is not necessary....most providers learn how to estimate blood loss in waterbirths over time. As with every other obstetric skill, it is acquired through teaching from other experts, observation, and practice. As they learned to estimate blood loss in land births, so they will learn to do so with waterbirths. Again, it simply requires the willingness to learn.Cost of Facilities
There are many other online resources about waterbirth available. Do a simple search and you will find many. If you would like to see what waterbirth might look like, "Birth Day" is a lovely waterbirth video of a Mexican midwife giving birth to her own baby in water with her family nearby. YouTube has a number of brief waterbirth videos as well. And stay tuned to this blog for more pictures of women of size laboring and giving birth in water!!