These days, there are plenty of options for how you want to bring your bundle of joy into the world. Water birth offers a healthier and more relaxing alternative to traditional childbirth, providing a long list of benefits for you and your soon-to-be-born baby. The calming, relaxing effect of immersion on the labor process is what draws so many expectant mothers to water birth.
If you decide to have a water birth, you'll want to make preparations to ensure your experience is joyous and worry-free. Here are a few preparation tips that can get you started.
1. Consider Your Risk Factors
There are plenty of risk factors that could rule out having a water birth. If you're carrying multiple children, if you're carrying a pre-term baby, if you have pre-eclampsia, or if your baby is in a breech position, you may not be able to go through with a water birth. The heightened risk of passing on an active infection such as herpes can also dash hopes for a water birth.
Other factors that could rule out a water birth include a history of difficult births, a previous caesarean section, a history of seizures, and whether your baby has passed meconium before or during labor. Your midwife or doula can help guide you through recognizing these factors and whether they could place you and your baby at risk during a water birth.
2. Make a Trial Run
Practice doesn't always make perfect, but a test run prior to the main event can make things go a bit smoother. A test run will give you a chance to see how prepared you are for the real deal. If there's anything missing during the test run, you'll have an opportunity to get more supplies.
During your practice run, time how long it takes to fill the birth tub. This way, you'll be able to fill the tub quickly at the just the right time, for the reasons mentioned in the next section.
3. Don't Fill the Tub Just Yet
As tempting as it is to have everything set up before labor, refrain from filling the tub until active labor begins. Filling the tub early could be an open invitation for bacteria to join in on your momentous occasion. Lukewarm temperatures can encourage bacteria growth, which could potentially lead to infections and place your baby in jeopardy.
Having clean water that can be used immediately is crucial for a water birth. As long as the water inside the tub is pure enough to drink, it'll be safe enough to use. The longer you wait to use your water, the more likely it'll become too contaminated to safely use.
4. Keep the Temperatures Just Right
The water should always be at the same temperature as the body during labor—roughly around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Straying outside of this Goldilocks zone by several degrees could add complications to the birthing process. Too hot and you risk putting your baby in distress. Too cold and you'll not only lose body heat too quickly, but you'll also place your baby at risk of hypothermia.
A properly sized hot water heater can help keep water temperatures within an ideal range. Otherwise, have buckets of clean hot water on hand to add when temperatures begin to dip.
5. Stay Hydrated
Despite being surrounded by plenty of water, you should keep yourself as hydrated as possible throughout the birth. Have your partner remind you to drink 6 to 8 ounces of water every couple of hours during labor to make sure that you stay hydrated. Dehydration could lead to fatigue, among other potential complications.