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Midwives supporting the use of water during the continuum of pregnancy, birth and beyond

One of the benefits of using water during labour and birth is the ability to be mobile and alter positions easily. To enhance normal undisturbed labour is a fine balance between hormones, psychology and physiology. Water added to this beautiful cocktail of labour can support a mother during a time of using all mothers and midwives skills in bringing a new life into the world.

As a midwife who has supported women wishing to use water as a choice begins with the opportunity to attend an aquanatal course during pregnancy. I advice women to discuss with midwives or doctors who are providing care to ensure that there are no contra indications to accessing water. Most women benefit from the relaxation and exercise qualities of water. Mothers are advised to attend a qualified aquanatal teachers class or when not possible gentle swimming in a warm pool will ease physical or psychological stress. I have known mothers with Pelvic girdle pain and other mobility issues to use water during pregnancy with a qualified teacher, relaxing and understanding their own body mobility in water.

During labour it is well known that mobility and upright positions can assist with the physiology of normal descent and rotation through the mothers pelvis. Upright positions assist with contractions and if unrestricted mother’s will find positions which assist there own contraction waves (pain). Water will assist many mothers who would not ordinarily be able to maintain these positions, indeed even with epidurals, new drugs, understanding of labour physiology and upright positions have meant that so called “mobile” epidurals have become common place. The analogy between water and epidurals has led many to call water an “aquadural”.

Water of course does not have the potential side effects of epidurals (intravenous access, continuous monitoring of the baby in itself often restricting mobility” and potentiality of assisting birth with forceps / ventouse). There maybe a very good medical reason for an epidural but for pain relief mothers need to understand that epidurals may interfere with the normal physiological birth process. I would like to explore briefly the four main theories about using water for labour and/or birth.
Physiological benefits include mobility, ease of movement, warm water relaxing muscles, ligaments and joints. Upright positions enhance normal physiological labour.
Psychological aspects, women in water have reported that it relaxes their mind as well as body, allows them to descend into a “zone” similar to hypnobirthing and maintain control over their birth experience.
Spiritual levels for some women encourage reestablishment of their own inner space, to connect with their babies and for some women can be very healing.
Finally, hormonal influences are identified to be enhanced by using water the fine interplay between adrenaline (hormone of excitement), endorphins (hormone of pleasure) melatonin (hormone of rest) and of course oxytocin (hormone of love – contractions) blend as a unique cocktail to enhance labour. You can read more about these four theories in my new book or attend one of my study days.

Finally no short article about the use of water would be complete without mentioning post natal and baby swimming. As with antenatal swimming a skilled educator should be supporting mothers and babies. The benefits include physiological and psychological connection between parents and their baby, co ordination development and simple safety for a child in the future who maybe near water. Enjoying the use of water has assisted many midwives to return to our original role “Midwife means …………… with woman”

Dianne Garland SRN RM ADM PGCEA MSc

22 April 2017

New book due out May 2017

Study day details via [email protected]