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Waterbirth: A Natural Option for Mother and Baby
by Terry Engelmann, CNP, Sanford Women’s



Few things are as a soothing as a soak in a warm tub of water.

For years, hospital and birthing centers have encouraged women in labor to use whirlpools and tubs to ease pains and relax in the minutes and hours before their baby is born.

Increasingly, women and their health care providers are seeing water as a way to improve the whole childbirth experience, including the birth, says Terry Engelmann, a Sanford Certified Nurse Midwife.

“Water immersion has been used for laboring for years,” said Engelmann. “Women who have given birth in water say they would never go back to doing it the other way because it was so much easier for them and the baby.”

Waterbirth, the act of giving birth in a tub or pool of warm water, is a safe and natural way to deliver a baby for women who are having a healthy, normal pregnancy. Engelmann, who has assisted with waterbirths when she practiced in the Twin Cities area and now in Sioux Falls, said the practice has been popular nationwide for as many as 20 years.

The process is simple, she says. A woman enters a tub or deep pool of warm water when her contractions become strong and regular. Engelmann said the woman determines what position is comfortable for her.

Her physician or certified nurse midwife kneels by the pool to help assist with the birth of the baby, reaching into the water to help guide the newborn in the same way that she would in a regular birthing situation. The physician or certified nurse midwife can even monitor the baby’s heartbeat using an ultrasound device in the water.

Soothing for moms

“The water birth seems to make it easier for the woman to relax and listen to her body’s instinct regarding the birthing process,” Engelmann said.

In addition to the soothing comfort of the water, there are a number of advantages for the mother, including:

  • • Ease in movement and positioning due to the buoyancy of the water.
  • • More efficient uterine contractions and better blood circulation, which results in less pain for the mother and more oxygen for the baby.
  • • Lower blood pressure.
  • • Alleviation of stress-related hormones, allowing the mother’s body to produce endorphins, which are pain-inhibitors.
  • After the baby is born, he or she is assisted to the surface of the water fairly quickly and placed on the mother’s chest.

    “Babies don’t breathe until the air actually hits the face,” she says. “It seems like the babies born in the water are a little calmer or quieter, too.”

    Less stress for baby

    By being born into water, babies are experiencing a similar environment to what they experience in the amniotic sac, Engelmann said. They seem to have less stress and more security during the process, she said.

    Waterbirth is not recommended for women who need constant electronic monitoring of the baby throughout childbirth, making it inappropriate for a woman who has had an epidural or is having her labor induced. A provider would also likely rule out waterbirth for a mother with an infection, large amount of bleeding, high blood pressure, insulin dependent diabetes or one who is giving birth prior to 37 weeks of gestation.

    Talk to your physician or certified nurse midwife about whether waterbirth would be a good option for you.

    Posted Date: July 2012

    Waterbirth: A Natural Option for Mother and Baby<br>by Terry Engelmann, CNP, Sanford Women’s

    By being born into water, babies are experiencing a similar environment to what they experience in the amniotic sac, they seem to have less stress during the process.