A water birth is when you deliver your baby submerged in a body of water. This is normally done using a birthing tub that is designed specifically for this purpose. There is also the option of laboring in the tub of warm water to help with pain relief, but getting out to deliver the baby if you do not desire a water birth.
For the mother, the water can be soothing, relaxing, and comforting. Being in the water allows the mother to feel weightless which can be relieving for her sore and heavy body as well as assist in easily changing positions. Water also causes the skin to be more elastic and relaxed, which is helpful for the perineum (the area of skin between the vagina and rectum) to prevent tearing or the need of an episiotomy (a surgical cut). Being in the water can also help the mother feel less exposed and allow for more privacy. For the baby, it is believed that the transition from the (wet and warm) amniotic sac to the (wet and warm) tub allows for a more peaceful birth and transition into the outside world.
The baby is not overly at risk for drowning because the umbilical cord is still attached, providing oxygen to the baby. Once exposed to air, then the baby will take a breath. However, you should discuss this risk with your care provider.
You should not attempt a water birth if you have herpes or are considered high risk. Discuss the benefits and risks with your care provider to consider if it’s the right option for you.
Local Water Birthing Options
In Nashville and the surrounding areas, your options for a water birth are limited.
Many hospitals will not allow a water birth due to liability reasons.
The following hospitals have laboring tubs to use for hydrotherapy, although you are not permitted to give birth within the tub:
St. Thomas Midtown
NorthCrest Medical Center
Finally, you have the option for water birth if you give birth at home!
You may purchase or rent a birthing tub which is large enough to accommodate the laboring mother as well as one or two support people and also regulates the temperature to keep the water warm.