Frequently asked questions
CAN I GET INTO THE WATER FROM THE START OF LABOUR AND STAY IN? No, although water or a bath can be used as pain relief for short periods earlier in labour (about 30 minutes at a time), it does slow down the labour process, so this is an end-of-labour option. You’ll climb into the water when you’re dilated to at least seven centimetres, says midwife Mary-Ann Alves. CAN I DO THIS IN MY OWN BATH AT HOME? A home bath doesn’t give you a lot of space to manoeuvre and often isn’t deep enough, says Jude Pollack, director of Genesis Private Maternity Clinic. A rented birthing pool or a birthing pool at an active labour unit is bigger, allowing space to kneel, squat or find other positions to birth in. WHAT IF I HAVE A BOWEL MOVEMENT? It can happen – as it can during a natural birth out of the water, but the midwife will use a net to scoop it out of the bath, and she’s used to dealing with this aspect of childbirth. It shouldn’t deter you from having a water birth. WHAT DO I WEAR? This is up to personal choice – some women feel relaxed naked, others wear a sports bra or tank top while giving birth. WILL I TEAR IF I HAVE A WATER BIRTH? Mary-Ann says it depends on the mother – some people are predisposed to tearing because of tighter muscles or a large baby, while others are less likely to tear during natural birth. Anecdotally, she says, there does seem to be less incidence of tearing, probably because moms are more relaxed and calmer, giving those muscles a chance to relax and stretch as nature intended. HOW HOT IS THE WATER? The water in the bath is at body temperature – about 37°C, which is tepid to lukewarm. It should not be any warmer. “Hot water is not recommended in pregnancy in any case,” says Mary-Ann. CAN I USE PAIN RELIEF WITH A WATER BIRTH? “Yes, you can still use pharmacological pain relief options such as Pethidine or Entonox, but if you want to have an epidural, you cannot have a water birth because this will stop you from being mobile,”explains Jude. WON’T MY BABY INHALE THE WATER? This has happened, but it’s extremely rare – babies are born with the dive reflex which prompts them to hold their breath underwater. “The baby isn’t left to float in the water once he’s out of the birth canal, we bring him up to mom’s chest fairly soon after he is born (literally a few seconds later),” explains MaryAnn. “The baby doesn’t breathe until he’s out of the water – it’s the change in temperature that prompts him to take his first breath,” she explains.