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Using Water During Labor and Birth

          Humans have an integral relationship with the element of water.  It runs through our veins, we are born of it, and it is necessary for our survival. We are drawn to it for escape, adventure, release, and cleansing. As a woman is preparing to give birth, water is a means of release from the weight of her growing belly, and the means to ease her aching muscles. Water is a great coping tool in labor, whether through a shower or tub. (For the sake of this paper we will only be mentioning the use of a tub.) The use of water in labor can aide in pain management by increasing relaxation, decreasing strain on muscles, and creating freedom of movement.

 

         The mother’s ability to relax her muscles during labor can affect the length of labor and the intensity of contractions. The more a mother fights and tenses her muscles the worse contractions may feel. Especially in active labor, the mother may need as many coping strategies as possible. The birthing tub offers a great respite, and a simple way to relax. The birthing tub is often called, "The midwife’s epidural”, for its effectiveness (Drichta, Owen p. 257). The warmth of the water helps to ease the pain felt from contractions, relaxing muscles of the pelvic floor and back, and creates a mental space that creates privacy (Drichta p. 258). It is recommended to maintain water temperature at 96-98 degrees. Using higher temperatures could cause increased blood pressure, dehydration and lethargy (Drichta p. 258). The bath is also deeply engrained as a place of mental release in daily routines. Our bathtubs are typically places of retreat to relax, and the mental association during labor holds true.

 

          Labor is a physically demanding process. From hours of walking, lunging, squatting, intense contractions, and the possibility of little sleep can make for a grueling marathon on the mother’s muscles. The warmth of the tub eases both the pain of the contractions and the work of her remaining muscles (Drichta p. 257). Being in a large tub that covers her belly, the mother is buoyant and freed from the gravity of dry land. Her pelvic muscles are relaxed and her cervix will continue to dilate, often with more ease as she relaxes. A mother that is able to relax and mentally release her tension, will have an easier time laboring than a mother that is fighting each contraction.

 

        Being weightless allows the mom to assume positions that could be too taxing on land, such as deep squats using the side of the pool, that will help baby to descend and turn. She's able to easily move from one position to the next in response to her labor, while remaining warm and relaxed. The ease of movement allows the mother to find her own rhythm and coping responses that she would not have had if she was limited to a bed. Her ability to move through labor gives the mother more control and autonomy during the birth. She's able to push in the position that suits her, catch her own baby, and bring baby to chest without outside help or others manipulating her body. She has full confidence and control.

 

          Relaxation, decreased strain on muscles and freedom of movement are gained for the birthing mother with the use of water during labor. The three work together as a pain management strategy, addressing both mental and physical tension that could hinder a birth. The birthing tub is used at its greatest advantage during late stage active labor throughtransition. It is recommended that for every hour spent in the tub, the mother spends at least thirty minutes out of the tub. This is to ensure that contractions do not slow down, as can sometimes happen. Often contractions may just feel less intense, but are still actively working. According to Water BirthInternational, “Getting back in the water after thirty minutes will reactivate the chemical and hormonal process, including a sudden and often marked increase in oxytocin.” (Harper p. 2) As with other labors, hydration is of the utmost importance. Keep a drink with a straw nearby so the mother can drink at will. The birth can be completed in the water as well, depending on location (some hospitals only allow laboring in the tub) and as long as the labor is not having any complications (ex:meconium, shoulder dystocia).

           

 

                                                     Works Cited

Drichta, Jane E., CPM and Owen, Jodilyn, CPM. The Essential Homebirth Guide for Families Planning or Considering Birthing at Home. 2003. Simon and Schuster.

 

Harper, Barbara. "Guidelines for Safe Waterbirth.”Waterbirth International. p. 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQVM36r1rvw#action=share

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Hypnobirthing

With my second birth, I used hypnobirthing during my labor. You can read more about my birth story in the post below. I had heard a bit about hypnobirthing on some group forums, but was really introduced to it by a nurse I had during my hospital stay after the birth of my first daughter, Elena. The nurse and I were comparing notes on natural child birth, and she mentioned that she used hypnobirthing with her fifth baby.

"It was the most peaceful, painless birth. I'd think it was a crock if I hadn't done it myself."

Intriguing to say the least! Something that could make child birth painless without an epidural sounded amazing. So here's what I learned:

There are two schools of hypnobirthing; Hypnobabies and Mongan method hypnobirthing.  Instruction is typically done in a class with certified instructors, with subtle differences in what is taught. For instance, a Hypnobabies class may teach specific hypnosis techniques for analgesia/pain relief where hypnobirthing may teach guided meditations for deep relaxation (helping to avoid the tension that leads to pain). Either way, here is the point of hypnobirthing: release your mind of fear and tension, and your body will use its natural ability to birth without excess pain. The more you tense, the more you feel pain, and the longer your body takes to birth. By relaxing your mind and body, the cervix can open much more easily. We are mammals after all. If we feel fearful, our mind tells the body, "I can't birth here, it's not safe."

The best way to utilize the practice, is to do just that. Practice. It does take repetitive practice to train your mind and body to relax. In our busy lifestyles of constant running, it can be difficult to turn ourselves off. To go to a quiet place and just be still. The more you can do this, the more effective the tracks will be in aiding relaxation during labor. I visualized a quiet place that I stumbled upon on Pinterest. (I know. Pinterest is so good at that, great pieces to inspire labor and bathroom redecorating.)

This was my safe place during transition. Who wouldn't want to be here?

This was my safe place during transition. Who wouldn't want to be here?

 

 

 

I used this as my safe place when labor got hard, and I could retreat to somewhere else mentally.

 

So did hypnobirthing give me a pain free birth? No. I had labor pain like any other birthing mammal, but my mind and body were relaxed the whole time. I was wonderfully prepared for my birth, and didn't feel the same kind of pain I had with my first. I would describe it as intense, but I was able to cope. Sophia's birth was peaceful, and I can't wait to do it again.

 

Other perks of practicing hypnobirthing:

1)I slept amazingly well. I slept like a rock when I did the tracks right before bed. Goodbye insomnia!

2) I noticed a decrease in freaky pregnancy dreams. Could be a coincidence, but it's worth trying.

3) The tracks were a great break during a stressful day. I ended a recording feeling calm and focused. Something I needed when my three year old was losing her mind daily in the last weeks of my pregnancy.

4) Others have reported less anxiety and being able to better cope with anxiety using the techniques.

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