Birthing Pool Experiences


A research project published in 1993 examined the experience of 170 mothers who gave birth in a waterbirth in England. Most mothers reported their experience as “quite or very pleasurable” and said they would consider a similar experience again in the future. Mothers attributed their positive experience to feelings of relaxation, pain relief, buoyancy, control, and relaxation. And while the benefits of waterbirth are well documented, research on the effectiveness of birthing pools has been sparse.

oxytocin

The birthing pool is a wonderful choice for a waterbirth, because of the benefits of oxytocin. Oxytocin, a naturally occurring hormone, stimulates effective contractions in a relaxed mother. In addition, the absence of fear or other emotions during labour decreases the level of stress hormones, including catecholamines, which inhibit oxytocin production. Large pools also allow mothers to maximize pelvic diameters, which enhances oxytocin production.

bacterial flora in water

A study has demonstrated that the bacterial flora in water during a birthing pool experience differs from that in a landbirth. A woman in a waterbirth was only slightly more likely to develop group B streptococcus. Among the other bacterial strains, Citrobacter spp. were also present, but the difference was minimal. Midwives have extensive training in proper sanitation practices and methods for minimizing the risk of infection during childbirth.

Cesarean rate

Despite the low Cesarean rate of the birthing pool, the study did not demonstrate any significant differences in terms of the rate of cesarean sections. Most women who gave birth in a birthing pool had uncomplicated pregnancy, which is defined as being at least 37 weeks gestation and having a singleton fetus with cephalic presentation. However, women with a wider risk profile were allowed to use the pool, i.e., those who had a previous Caesarean section, previous preterm labour, or who had already undergone a Cesarean section.

Benefits

If you’re planning on giving birth in a birthing pool, it is important to think about the various benefits of this experience before you go in. Some women feel more secure in a hospital setting, while others might prefer the privacy of home. Some midwife-led units have a dedicated room with a large bath, which is designed to ease labour pains. The bath is often equipped with mood lighting and a special plumbing system.

Precautions

While most women do not experience any serious complications from birthing in water, the risks of infection and the need for pain medication are not eliminated. The woman and baby share the same body temperature, which can increase the risk of fetal hyperthermia and cardiovascular or metabolic disruptions. High temperatures have also been associated with increased risk of fetal mortality and morbidity. The theory behind this risk stems from a study conducted on pregnant ewes in 1978. In addition to the risk of heat transfer from mother to baby, the water temperature of the birth pool also decreases the resistance of the placenta bed.

Results of a study on birthing pool experiences

In a recent meta-analysis of birthing pools, researchers found that more than half of women who used these facilities had spontaneous vertex deliveries. In addition, 63 percent of nulliparae gave birth spontaneously in water, while the same percentage of multiparae used them. In both groups, the use of birthing pools was associated with a lower risk of adverse maternal outcomes (as measured by number of episiotomies) than in non-birthing women. Further, waterbirth was associated with a lower incidence of episiotomies and spontaneous second degree perineal tears in both groups, which was not significant.