Hydrotherapy for Pain Relief During Childbirth


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Hydrotherapy (also referred to as water births) remain a subject of some controversy as different sources disagree on the safety and effectiveness of this method. This article discusses how hydrotherapy can be useful during childbirth and labour.

What is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is simply the use of water as a tool for pain relief and delivery during childbirth. Birth pools are often used for hydrotherapy, and are deep enough for immersion yet shallow enough to remain safe for childbirth. The water in birth pools is typically kept comfortably warm at about 37 degrees C, although this can vary.

Benefits of hydrotherapy

Being immersed in water is psychologically and physically relaxing, and provides immense relief during the different stages of labour. Being in water also helps you find a comfortable position, which can often be quite difficult during labour. Many women suffer from backache during labour, and the warmth helps to ease some of that pain, as well as allow for some degree of comfort.

Hydrotherapy can also be used in conjunction with other methods of pain relief, allowing for a level of comfort that few other methods can provide. The use of water as a method is supported by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and The National Childbirth Trust.

If you are receiving hydrotherapy you don’t have to actually deliver your baby underwater (through a water birth), but this is an option provided you and your baby have had a healthy pregnancy.

Considerations during hydrotherapy

The water used in hydrotherapy should not be too warm as this can leave you feeling uncomfortable, and can in some cases cause distress to your baby. Your midwife will probably monitor the water temperature and make sure that you are comfortable.

If at any point you become unhappy or uncomfortable with the hydrotherapy you should tell your midwife immediately. This method is meant to promote a sense of relaxation to help you through childbirth, and if it doesn’t suit you don’t hesitate to inform your midwife or doctor.

Water births

If you choose to you can go through with a water birth, which essentially involves going through the second stage of labour while your lower half is immersed in water. While there are still some concerns about the safety of water births, they are regularly practiced throughout the world and are approved of by a number of different health authorities.

During a water birth you should be careful to keep your baby’s head under water until the baby is fully delivered as this prevents the breathing reflex from kicking in prematurely. Your baby will still be receiving oxygen from you through the umbilical cord and so will be safe in that sense.

If you are interested in water birth then you should talk to your doctor or midwife about the option, their experience will prove invaluable when it comes to giving you advice about which option suits you best.


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