Waterbirth / Hydrotherapy in Labor

Being as comfortable as you can during labor

Hydrotherapy, better known as using water to relax and provide pain relief in labor has been a method used by women intuitively for thousands of years. Warm water relaxes the muscles and eases tension and can be a great pain reliever in labor. The first documented water labor and subsequent birth happened in 1803 in France. In the United States the value of warm water in labor started to get attention in 1967.

Hydrotherapy use

For many women, hydrotherapy or the use of water as a non-pharmacologic pain relief technique is extremely desirable for labor. This can be a great tool for women who want to minimize their exposure to IV drugs or an epidural in labor. Hydrotherapy may be in the form of a warm spray of water from the shower aimed at the lower uterine segment to relieve the stretching sensations of the ligaments and areas associated with posterior presentations. Laboring in a tub can increase a laboring woman's pain tolerance making it easier to cope with labor . Tubs that maintain the water temperature at or around body temperature (98° F - 100° F) also soothe tired and aching muscles and ligaments – helping with further relaxation of the mother. Research reviewed in the article by Schorn, McAllister and Blanco show "the benefits of water immersion include faster cervical dilation resulting in shorter labors, increased relaxation and decreased pain". Cervical dilation was more rapid in one group (2.5 cm/hour) as compared to 1.25 cm per hour in a control group. Other studies have documented the great anxiety relief and fast pain relief mothers feel upon entering the water in labor. To be sure, warm water is soothing to the body and mind, and this relaxation allows the woman to feel less pain. Some studies cite up to an 80% reduction in the pain women felt when immersed in warm water.

Pregnant women often comment about how good it feels to float either in the tub or in a pool as the water supports the body. Buoyancy in the labor tub allows for an almost weightless feeling. Women who need to move during labor to enhance progress truly benefit from the ease of movement in a labor tub.

The nurse midwives at Women's Circle understand and support your choice to use water to relax and minimize the pain you feel in labor. We encourage women in the earlier parts of labor to remain at home and use the tub or shower for pain relief and relaxation. On arriving to the hospital, women who desire to be mobile and use the shower are encouraged in this. Fremont Medical Center is currently building a new hospital where the labor rooms will have tubs in them to provide easier access to this valuable tool to help make your labor as comfortable and satisfying as possible.