Posted: Feb 19, 2014 9:00 AM
Have you ever wondered what water births are all about or even considered having this kind of natural birth? We have water birth information from the most reliable sources: real women who've had them and share their water birth pros and cons.

Water births have been a favored option for many women, for many years. But unless you've attended one you might be curious about them — the whats, the whys and, of course, the hows. We spoke with women who've had water births and a doula who has attended them to answer these exact questions!

Studies and anecdotal evidence have long held that laboring in water reduces pain, increases relaxation, softens tissue, reduces blood pressure, decreases anxiety and stress-related hormones and offers mobility and freedom of movement.

Jessica Berman is a doula and childbirth educator with Stork & Sprout, which provides a continuum of prenatal, birth and postpartum services in the Bay Area to help new parents and growing families have the best possible experiences. Berman says that the benefits of water births have been touted for a long time and with good reason. She explains, "Studies and anecdotal evidence have long held that laboring in water reduces pain, increases relaxation, softens tissue, reduces blood pressure, decreases anxiety and stress-related hormones and offers mobility and freedom of movement."

Berman says that the benefits of water births are not surprising because many of us turn to water for the same reasons that birthing mothers do — for relaxation and rejuvenation. She explains, "Think of the comfort you get from taking a bath or a shower, and the simultaneously energizing effects you have from spending some time on the beach, in the ocean or at a lake. In a similar way, the water-induced experiences of relaxation, privacy, buoyancy and freedom of movement are all very helpful during labor." We spoke with four women who shared their water birth experiences and confirmed that, for them, water births deserve the great reputation they have.

A warm welcome

Sarah Reinhart waterbirth

Photo credit Jessica Deis

Writer, photographer and mother of five, Sarah Reinhart, says, "I loved welcoming my son, our fourth child, into the world by having him born into water. He went from swimming and floating in my womb into this other aquatic environment and from there straight up into my arms. I feel like we helped him make a very gentle transition into the world. He floated into existence! I also used the warm water as a comfort measure during labor. The water relaxed me enough to make contractions much less painful. I was comfortable there in the water. With my husband and doula beside the birth pool I labored in a very tranquil way. So, in the end, both my son and I benefited from our water birth together. Now we are expecting our fifth baby this May and the plan is to welcome him or her into the world through water once again."

Calm waters

Stephanie B waterbirth collage

Photos via Stephanie B.

Stephanie B. is a proud mom to two boys, one born in a hospital and one at home, as well as a birth advocate in the U.S. About her water birth, Stephanie says, "I had a wonderful (evidence based) home birth that ended up as a water birth in my tub. I did not initially plan on having a water birth — although I knew it was an option, I really thought I would only use water (shower or tub) as pain management. I labored around my home for about four hours when I decided the contractions were coming along quite nicely and needed some relief. As soon as my belly hit the warm water, I immediately felt a sense of relief and calm wash over me. I labored in the water for about an hour or so more and then my midwife said, "I think Baby is ready to come now, do you want to labor here or in the bedroom?" At that point, I felt that moving out of the water would not help, so I stayed in the water and my son was born after about six pushes. It was an amazing moment and I'm not sure who was more surprised at my water birth — myself or my husband. If I were to have another child, I would definitely do it again!"

An emergence, not an emergency

Jennifer Salome waterbirth

Photo credit R.Watson Photography

Jennifer Salome is a water birth convert. She says, "My husband and I decided on a water birth after seeing the documentary The Business of Being Born. Before viewing the documentary, I was one of those women who would've wanted all the drugs in the world to get through a hospital birth. The movie opened my eyes to the fact that births are an emergence, not an emergency." About her water birth, Jennifer says, "Although the labor was long, and I experienced PROM, everything else about the birth of our daughter was amazing. I felt lucky that I actually got to experience a water birth since a couple women I'd spoken with had labor progress faster than anticipated. That meant there was not enough time to get the water ready. In all honesty, I thought the water was going to make the contractions more manageable; however, once inside the water, it only eased the discomfort for the first couple contractions. However, with that being said, I don't have anything to compare it to. I've never experienced the pushing phase before outside the water, therefore it may have eased the pain, and I don't know it! After experiencing home birth, there is no other option for me. Unless my next pregnancy is considered high risk, I will have our next child at home."

Happy endings... and beginnings

Denise Romney waterbirth

Photos via Denise Romney

Denise Romney is a work-at-home mom of four boys. About her water birth, Denise says, "I had two hospital births before I tried my first water birth. It was disappointing that the hospitals wouldn't let me birth in water, so when I found out I could deliver in water at home I was so excited! Had I known how wonderful a water birth could be, I would have had them with my first two! The baby was so alert and hardly cried. It was absolutely adorable to watch him turn his head toward the voice of his siblings and father only moments after birth. There was no rush, no bright lights and it was quiet! My husband was a bit busier this time, but I loved having him catch our baby. I would do it over and over again — and have!"

Last {tranquil} thoughts

Every woman's birth story and experience is different. But by sharing — and listening to — each other's birth stories we all learn the same thing: We have many choices at our fingertips and are lucky enough to get to make them.

More on your birth plan

How to write a birth plan
How I had a natural birth in a hospital
The day I realized I was a natural birth bully