How can babies be born underwater?
There are four main factors that prevent the baby from inhaling water at the time of birth:
1. Prostaglandin E2 levels from the placenta which cause a slowing down or stopping of the fetal breathing movements. When the baby is born and the Prostaglandin level is still high, the baby's muscles for breathing simply don't work, thus engaging the first inhibitory response.
2. All babies are born experiencing mild hypoxia or lack of oxygen. Hypoxia causes apnea and swallowing, not breathing or gasping.
3. Fetal lungs are already filled with fluid. That fluid is there to protect the lungs and keep the spaces open that will eventually exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen. It is very difficult, if not improbable, for fluids from the birth tub to pass into those spaces that are already filled with fluid. One physiologist states that "the viscosity of the fluid naturally occurring in the lungs is so thick that it would be nearly impossible for any other fluids to enter."
4. The last important inhibitory factor is the Dive Reflex and revolves around the larynx. The larynx is covered all over with chemoreceptors or taste buds. The larynx has five times as many as taste buds as the whole surface of the tongue. So, when a solution hits the back of the throat, passing the larynx, the taste buds interprets what substance it is and the glottis automatically closes and the solution is then swallowed, not inhaled.
For a more complete description, please read Barbara Harper’s Waterbirth Basics.
What about monitoring the baby's heart rate? Our monitoring devices are waterproof. We can continue to monitor the baby while mom is enjoying the benefits of the warm water.
How does mom benefit from water during labor and birth? Warm water provides helpful relaxation to both the mother and baby. I encourage mom to use water during labor for many reasons. The support water gives to the body enables the laboring woman to easily get in a variety of positions. Women enjoy the weightlessness of being in the water. It provides great freedom of movement for moms. Water can provide a buoyancy that reduces pressure from gravity, it helps promote circulation to the uterus, and softens the perineal area. This can have pain-relieving benefits that many moms swear by. In addition to its aquadural effect, it can aid in lowering high blood pressure and increasing tissue flexibility promoting less tearing.
Why is waterbirth so special? Birth in water is a very gentle transition for babies. Rather than being immediately exposed to a dramatic change of environment after they are born, waterbirth babies are welcome into warm water that allows them to gently transition to breathe air.
What kind of tub is best? A deeper garden tub is the easiest option. We have provided a tub at the birth center. I generally recommend an inflatable tub if you do not have a garden tub at home. They are comfortable and affordable. The tubs are easy to clean or easily disposed of after birth. Either a children's play pool or a more therapeutic model with jets will work. These tubs provide good depth and room for moms to move around and are large enough to accommodate partners and siblings. I will share options for tubs with you if you ask.
www.yourwaterbirth.com for more information