Waterbirth in Ireland was the theme of this year’s Home Birth Association annual conference on Sunday. If you were following me on Twitter, your timeline would have been bombarded with a blow by blow account of the day. Between myself and my fellow Irish Parenting Blogger David who was representing Birthingmamas on the day, I think there probably wasn’t one inch of the conference we didn’t cover!
The biggest take away for me was that water birth – whether you’re talking about just labouring in water or both labouring and delivering your baby in water – is most definitely not the preserve of women planning a home birth. Having access to birth pools in both hospital and home births is a great option for labouring mothers and the over riding recommendation seems to be “get thee to some warm water!”.
We heard great speeches from renowned UK midwifery lecturer Ethel Burns and Philomena Canning, Dublin-based self employed community midwife, who between them have over 70 years of midwifery and water birth experience. Ethel took us through her fascinating 2012 research on outcomes for women using a birth pool and Philomena spoke about her experience and the benefits of water birth.
Here’s some facts you may not have been aware of:
- All midwifery units in the UK have a birth pool. We have very few in Ireland
- Use of a birth pool during the first stage of labour decreases the need for analgesia (pain meds), results in less augmentation of labour, more spontaneous delivery, less infection, reduced pain perception and increased maternal satisfaction. That’s an awful lot of good things.
- Evidence also shows that using a birth pool results in more intact perinae, no increase in extensive perineal trauma, and no increase for minor or major primary post partum haemorrhage
- It is not necessary to wait until you are x many centimetres dilated to get into a birth pool. You can get in when you want to get it in.
- If you are interested in or planning a natural birth, Ethel’s research proves that both labouring in water, or labouring and delivering in water, increase your chance of having a normal birth. Ethel also pointed out that data shows that if you are a healthy first time mother with no complications, you are in a very high risk group for an emergency C-section. Getting yourself into water for your labour will reduce your chances of this happening.
Both Ethel and Philomena gave great tips on the practicalities of using a birth pool:
- Ethel recommended that the temperature of your birth pool should be slightly cooler than your normal bath temperature but said that you shouldn’t get hung up on temperature. Cooler is better and be comfortable. Philomena agreed that your own comfort was key and suggested a temperature between 37 and 38 degrees.
- Philomena stressed that the most important thing about using a birth pool is to make sure that your partner does a trial run of filling the pool beforehand. You need to know how much water you’ll need, how long it takes, that the hose, taps, nozzles etc all work together.
- From a timing perspective, Philomena recommended that if you’re having a home birth, don’t wait for your midwife to arrive before preparing the pool. Have it filled and ready to go before you think it’s time to call her – otherwise you mightn’t make it that far!
Philomena made three really important points about water birth and natural birth. She said that mothers will always benefit by going with nature as much as you can and that the great thing about a water birth is that it keeps your caregivers away from you and “hands off”. She also called water birth the epidural of home birth. Having laboured in a birthing pool myself I can attest to that last one and also add “but much more pleasant”. 🙂
You can access Ethel’s research at this link here if you’d like to read more. As was mentioned a number of times at the conference, birth pools are so widely available now and quite affordable, so there’s no reason why you couldn’t decide to have your own birth pool at home to labour in before going into the hospital if that’s what you wanted to do. Given the relatively few birth pools available in Irish maternity units it’s certainly something to consider.
There were a number of other topics discussed at this year’s home birth conference including policy developments in home birth in Ireland in the last 12 months and women’s rights in childbirth to choose both where and how they deliver their babies. I’ve covered those same issues here myself in the last couple of months so you might be interested in reading my earlier post, Giving Birth Is a Feminist Issue and my guest blog on Feminist Ire.
You might also like to read my Shopping List for a Home birth and for nostalgia’s sake, I started this blog this time last year the weekend of the 2012 home birth conference when Ina May Gaskin was in town so you might like to check out A Lot of Midwifery is about Loosening the Butt!
Happy water labouring!