With increased buoyancy in the water the pregnant woman can change her position easily. In most cases, water births are shorter and less painful with no need for the risks associated with analgesics or Epidural Anesthesia. The buoyancy also causes a hormonal change in the mother's body, giving her more oxytocin (the hormone responsible for labor contractions), making her labor more efficient. Birth is also a strenuous effort for the baby and water eases this exertion. The warm liquid is still familiar to the newborn and softens light, colors and noises.
Our specially designed birth pools are large enough to accommodate a labor support person such as the father or another support person, and are equipped with waterbed style heaters to maintain optimum water temperature. The great majority of women who have experienced water birth say that they would never want to have a baby any other way.
Some express concerns with regard to water births, though most objections are because the idea is new to them. Some wonder if the water may increase the chance of infection for the baby, but to date there has been no evidence to support this contention. Midwives and doctors experienced with water births have not noted any increase in infection rates for either mother or baby.
One common question is 'will the baby breathe water into his lungs?' The baby will not aspirate water because the baby's first breath is triggered by the absence of the water over the face, which triggers the 'mammalian diving reflex', along with the contact with air pressure on the trigeminal nerve area of the face. For the first breath to take place the baby switches over from fetal circulation to newborn circulation, closing the shunts in the heart, creating pulmonary circulation, changing the pressures in the lungs, pushing out fluids that are already present in lung spaces and allowing for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
This process takes a few minutes to completely initiate, during which time the newborn is still receiving oxygen from the umbilical cord, which is not cut during this transition to newborn. There is no threat that the newborn will inhale water during the birth process since his trigger to breathe oxygen is not present until he makes contact with the air. Some ask if the baby can aspirate water if it is raised to the surface after the birth and then re-immersed in the water. Although there is presumably a minute risk of this happening inadvertently, your midwife is well aware of this possibility, and once the baby is brought to the surface the baby is placed straight on the woman's breast to feed and not re-immersed in the water.