Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Week 36, Birth Centers and Water Births

Update 2/1/2012: I did in fact have a natural water birth on August 2nd. You can read about my experience HERE.  Words of encouragement to moms considering it: natural childbirth is DOABLE! I will be having a water birth with baby #2 if it means at home in a tub!

This face says:

 How many more weeks of this?

Hormones are beginning to make my joints loosen up, so I find myself waddling whether I like it or not. I sound like a walking advertisement for Rice Krispies because when I roll over in bed or get up my bones snap, crackle and pop! Last night when I turned over my hip popped so loudly it startled Roy awake!

And this pregnancy rhinitis stuff? Yeah, I'm ready to not be sneezing 15 times a day and constantly looking for a kleenex with a runny nose. Look closely at the preggo pics and it looks like I'm always just on the verge of tears...isn't that lovely?

I asked my midwife today about having a migraine during labor (since mine are hormone-related and my hormones will be going wacko), and she said that of the (literally) thousands of women she's helped through labor, she's never seen one with a migraine during labor...even those who have hormonal migraines like me. So that was great news! (knock on wood)

Also, because a few of you have asked about it, I'm giving birth at a birth center and will most likely have a water birth. A lot of people I talk to about this have never heard of doing such a thing (babies have to be born in hospitals, right?), so I thought since I have this platform of blogging I might as well use it to help people learn that there are other options for how to give birth. 

Let me be clear that I'm not saying this is the BEST way to give birth, this is just the option that I've chosen for myself

I don't think epidurals are necessarily bad, and am thankful for modern medicine because C-sections have saved lives.  But when I first found out I was pregnant I hadn't even thought about a birth center, and the prospect of labor so scared me that my "all natural" plan for that "one day" childbirth went right out the window and I was ready to be strapped in a bed and pumped full of as many drugs as it took to not feel anything. The more I read and researched, though, the more I learned about childbirth and all the options, and that is what I want to share with you.

A lot of people I've talked to ask, "What is a birth center?"  A birth center is a place where you can give birth in a home-like environment. You're free to walk around, be in the shower, be in the tub, be on a birthing ball, or be wherever and however you like while going through labor. 

Here's a picture of one of the two birthing suites at Eastside Birth Center, which is where I'll be:

Yeah, that's a giant tub in the corner.

At a birth center they don't induce labor, try to hurry a labor up, and usually you're home between 3 and 4 hours after delivering the baby. Fetal monitoring is intermittent with a Doppler, as opposed to being strapped to a machine the whole time.  You're allowed to eat and drink as you wish during labor as well--which is a heck of a lot better than ice chips! There are no drugs for pain relief other than a local analgesia to suture tears in the perinium, and there are very few epistiotomies done.

I meet with two certified midwives, one who is also a Naturopathic doctor (N.D.).  Each meeting is between 35 minutes and an hour, and is a lot less formal than when I met with either the OBGYN or nurse midwife I saw through the same OBGYN clinic before I switched to the birth center. At the birth center I sit on a sofa across from the midwife and a midwife student (rather than perched on an exam table), and we actually chat about how things are going (rather than "any questions? No? Great, bye!"). They take a lot more time to palpate my belly, talking to Tatum as they find her back and head and feet. I feel like they're connecting with Tatum as well as me before she's even entered the world. And she's a baby...not a fetus. :-)

The midwives are equipped and have the experience to handle most complications for both the mother and baby.  While C-section rates at the hospital down the street from the birth center are 34% (basically one out of every three babies), they are less than 3% for those who go to the birth center (a C-section would require a hospital transfer, which in this case would only take from 4-7 minutes).  While birth centers aren't for everyone (like if you're having twins or have pregnancy complications), they are a very safe hospital alternative for healthy pregnancies. 

The whole philosophy of midwives or a birth center is that birth is a normal process, not something that needs to be "fixed."

If you want more general information about birth centers, you can visit the American Association of Birth Centers website. Here is a good page that helps describe what is different about Birth Centers than hospitals.  Most insurances cover birth centers, and overall the cost is about a third of what it would cost to give birth in a hospital (so really your insurance should be thanking you!).  

Also, if you want a brief history of how American women transitioned from home births in the early 1900's to making hospital births and epidurals the status quo, The Business of Being Born has a great recap on that. You can also stream this movie on Netflix.  It was this movie that had me first start thinking that maybe I could do this thing without an epidural, and from there led me to taking birth classes with Liz Chalmers at Birth Zone and eventually to Eastside Birth Center.

As far as water births go, I think most people now know what that is. 

You have the baby in warm water--usually around 100 degrees.

I was listening to a podcast by Barbara Harper today, founder of Water Births International, and she was saying she's found references to water births that go back to the 1700's and 1800's. In fact, one of her grandmother's medical textbooks from the very early 1900's states that "a labor in which the mother is not in a warm bath should be considered abnormal." 
There are a lot of benefits to laboring in a warm bath. Here's the short list:

  • Water creates weightlessness that will provide support and require less energy from the mother during the birthing process.
  • Warm water creates relaxation, which will mean less pain for the mother and a reduced amount of adrenaline and anxiety.
  • A warm bath helps increase the levels of oxytocin produced, which is the “love hormone” that causes contractions and the cervix to dilate.
  • Water births naturally decrease the blood pressure of the mother and the blood supply to the placenta is increased allowing improved oxygen to the fetus.
  • Immersion during labor will position the mother in such a way that the fetal decent is quickened.
  • The newborn will have an easier transition from the womb into his or her new world.
  • A baby going from a warm womb to warm water to its mother's chest is a less traumatic experience for an infant than a birth in a cold hospital room.

A lot of people worry about the baby breathing under water, and HERE is a great list of why babies don't.

I plan on using the tub during labor, and if I happen to stay in during the delivery great--but nothing about birth can ever be set in stone! All I can do is have my preferences and be flexible.  I think I've covered a good amount of basics, and hopefully maybe peaked your interest in other birthing options as well. To close, here's the trailer to The Business of Being Born (and don't discount it because Ricki Lake produced it, like I almost did!)

went on a YouTube bunny trail and now I want to see this too...


  1. Lots of women choose water birth in our country (Slovakia, EU), this is possible even in some hospitals here.
    It´s better, less painfull and less shocking for both - baby and mom... I heard only positive opinions and experience, including mine :-)
    If any complications occure, it´s always possible to move to other room to go for a C-section.
    Seems Tatum comes soon :-)))
    Good luck and no stress...

  2. Wow, what a great informative post!! Good luck with your delivery, I'm really excited for you!!

  3. My sister has had both of her daughters at home. First was a water birth, 2nd came really quick at the end and she didn't have time to get in the tub. I on the other hand had an emergency c-section.

  4. You are going to have a great birth experience!! Enjoy it! What a blessed miracle!