Soaking in a nice hot tub of water is divine when you're in a state of tension or suffering from aches and pains. It should come as no surprise, then, that immersion in a tub of warm water can be soothing during labor. Several studies have (excuse the pun) borne out the fact that laboring in water has some pretty significant benefits.
Laboring women can obtain the benefits of water therapy (hydrotherapy) by sitting in a tub of warm water, or by standing under a warm shower spray. The warm water helps to relax the muscles and to decrease the pain resulting from uterine contractions. Hydrotherapy helps your uterus work in a more efficient manner. This has been proven by studies showing that labor progresses at a faster pace when laboring women remain in water. Warm water immersion also has the effect of lowering elevated blood pressure.
More and more women are turning to hydrotherapy as a means of pain management during labor and delivery. Many health care providers have responded to this trend by encouraging water therapy for labor and delivery. There was a time, not too far in the distant past, in which women were confined to bed for the duration of labor, but today, birthing centers and hospitals all over the U.S. are vying to catch up with the times and provide hydrotherapy to laboring women. In many cases, Jacuzzi tubs or showers are provided in each birthing room.
So, what's the downside? Nothing really—as long as your labor is progressing as it should, there is no problem with remaining immersed in water. It's possible for your baby's heartbeat to be monitored during this time.
If the birthing room comes equipped with a shower, lean against the wall so that the spray is directed at your abdomen or lower back. If the room has a Jacuzzi, you can lie supine in the bubbling, warm water. The warmth and buoyancy of the water will soothe your discomfort. You will feel your body relaxing into the welcoming water. You can, if you like, add in breathing and relaxation techniques. Bring along a bath pillow so your head will be comfortable.
Sometimes the labor partner wants to be part of the experience. He can get in beside you if there is enough room in the tub or shower. Otherwise, he can park a chair next to the tub or shower and keep you company. While it's necessary for you to remain unclothed during submersion, your partner should bring a swimsuit if he plans to get in there with you. After all, you'll have staff coming in and out of the room, and there's no medical reason for him to disrobe.
You may or may not decide to give birth underwater. Some caregivers won't allow you to remain in a tub during your birth, even though you might wish very much to do so. Check the policy of the hospital or birthing center in advance of your labor and delivery so as to avoid any unpleasant surprises on this score.