NICE (the guidance used by hospitals) says that water is second only to epidural as a form of pain relief in labour, it has none of the unwanted side effects and unlike chemical pain relief, it can be stopped completely at a moments notice if needed.
“The evidence shows that immersion in water provides effective pain relief. As far as we know this does not adversely affect maternal or neonatal outcomes.”
I’m not going to beat about any bushes here, I am a complete believer in the value of using water in labour. I’ve laboured in hospital, at home on dry land and in water, and until I’d tried it I struggled to believe it could make so much difference, now I can’t think of many reasons not to try it! There is a lot of evidence supporting labour in water, but I thought that rather than repeat all that I’d share some of my other thoughts. Please also see my thoughts on ‘warming-up’ for an easy birth here.
So, water, why?
What do you do when you want to relax your mind after a hard day? Does lighting candles, grabbing a book and heading off for a long soak in the bath sound good?
What might you do after hard exercise, a hard day in the garden or standing on your feet all day? Collapsing in a tub of relaxing scented warm water and gently moving to ease those aches and pains? Does that sound like a good idea?
When you have a pulled muscle, backache, a strain, period pain how might you treat it? Can I get you a hot water bottle or a wheat pack to help soothe those aches and pains? Does that provide comfort and relief? You bet!
Immersion in water warms and soothes, it also lowers your blood pressure, relaxes your mind and body. It is great for all those end of pregnancy aches and pains and for easing the sensations of labour. You may find your bath big enough, but if you can’t get comfortable, you can’t get it deep enough, or you can’t get your belly under water when you kneel, you might want to consider the benefits of a borrowed or hired pool. Even if you plan to move to hospital later in labour water can really help with the end of pregnancy and early labour. It is well documented that women who call their midwife or who go to hospital later in established labour ask for less pain relief and receive fewer interventions (without increasing their risk of undesirable outcomes) than those who are attended by medical professionals early. Water can help you achieve that too.
If you want to know more about the practicalities of using water or a pool, do call for a chat, I even have a pool you can look at before you make any decisions. If you want to read more, have a look at www.thegoodbirth.co.uk. If you want to know more about using water for VBAC, MIDIRS have a great article which appears to be currently off-line, and a nice piece on common obstacles to using water is here.