I am a clinical midwife . I promote the use of water in pregnancy, labour and also birth . I have not always been this way – I’ve read and studied the effect water can have on us as humans and in the past ten years I have developed a belief and understanding about the benefits of using water to calm, relax and strengthen. Some women are uncertain about the role that water can play in their labour. I discuss the benefits and try to imagine myself as a future mother listening to my views and my passion for birth in water.
At no point do I ever force anyone to get into the water. However I always admit a woman to a room with a pool and try to have the water running as she enters the room . There is something calming and reassuring about the sound of running water – memories of bath time as a child are evoked. Water has long been used to cleanse, relax and prepare for rest as well as helping us as humans to start our day . Washing and bathing are such a huge part of our lives that we give no thought to them – water is primitive . Think of lakes pools, rivers- places where our ancestors would wash, play, perform ritual, religious ceremonies and do chores- water is embedded into our psyche. Water makes is feel good and this is highlighted in the following article.
We are drawn to water – the Lake District is named after water , there are many places in the world infamous because they have involve water – hot springs , falls, rivers and streams . We marvel at the strength and beauty of a waterfall, at the gentleness of morning dew on a spiders web and how many of us have stared at the sun setting on the horizon and disappearing from view as if appears to submerge itself into water.
Being in a pool gives a woman her own environment – mammals seek a safe place to birth away from other mammals, predators and noise . They seek somewhere secure, warm and calm- a protective place. The pool environment fits all these criteria and more – compare a pool to a bed – there is in fact more privacy in the pool – once inside the pool a woman is covered by water and her private areas are away from view. Consider this in relation to a woman on a bed with a sheet over her and feel her vulnerability in this position. Staff stand over her and instantly the inequality begins – whereas in a pool a midwife will sit on the floor , kneel down and bring herself to the woman’s level – if you are with a woman who is on a bed then gets chairs for other HCPs who may enter the room , make sure the correct door is opened to maintain privacy and dignity , make the bed higher so the woman feels at a positional advantage or help her to get off the bed off the bed http://www.rcmnormalbirth.org.uk/ten-top-tips/
I call the pool the “watercave”and women I have talked to after the birth say they felt safe strong and protected by the walls of the pool , they felt they could move and choose their own position and in control of their own movements . As the birth process begins I’ve noticed that more women feel for the babies head in the pool than on a bed – I never ask a woman if she would like to feel her newborns head prior to birth as it should be an instinctual choice – once we say , are we interfering? I talk to women and their birth partners about the physiology of birth in the pool, how it happens and about physiological third stage . I feel as health professionals we should not presume prior knowledge and that discussing birth choices builds on the relationship between the family and the midwife . We should feel equal and the same – this will facilitate a two way process of communication and care and will also embed the 6cs in order to give the best experience to the woman primary not the midwife .
The most wonderful thing about the pool is that the midwife learns to sit on her hands there is no need to touch anything and this is just amazing for the woman .
To see a woman reach down and lift her own child out of the water (or for the father / second mother / grandparent / partner / friend to
do this) is just so beautiful it is the land of goosebumps the place where birth belongs and when you facilitate this you are giving birth back to women. Midwives are “with woman” WITH suggests equality – we are not superior to women and we should rejoice in the power of the uterus and the power of womanhood in its own right.