You researched and planned your water birth. You attended classes, read books, and envisioned what it's going to be like. Now you're nervous and anxious but mainly excited about the moment you will meet your baby for the first time. You daydream about the first time you will hold your baby in your arms. Then, unexpectedly, you go into labor before you're full-term, or your baby is breech. You realize you won't be able to have a water birth, and your carefully researched dreams crumple. You're devastated at missing the chance to give birth in the way you wanted -- and understandably so. But pregnancies are unpredictable, and often they require you to throw out your plans and do some serious (and possibly terrifying) improvisation. Here are some situations that would require you to be flexible about your water birth.
New mom and fashion model Amber Rose had planned a water birth at home, but at 37 weeks she learned her baby was breech. After trying many natural methods to get her baby to move in to the proper position, she had to forgo her water birth to bring her child safely into the world. In an appearance on The Ricki Lake Show, Rose opened up about how difficult it was to watch her plans for a home water birth go "down the drain," but ultimately she felt that she "made the right decision."
For Christy Dorff, a mother of two from Mesa, Arizona, the words meconium aspiration stopped her from having a water birth. Her baby already had his first bowel movement while in utero, so he ran the risk of swallowing meconium (stool) particles when he took his first breath. The particles could block the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide, leading to respiratory distress. Christy gave up her wishes of delivering her baby in water, and she felt deeply disappointed, which is normal when you encounter unmet expectations for your delivery. "While women need to be realistic about what could happen during birth, we also need to understand that our entire physical, emotional, and spiritual self went into birthing that baby. And it's OK for the spirit to be a little crushed or bruised," Dorff shares. The miracle of birth is an emotional undertaking that requires women to be gentle with themselves.
Typically, during a home water birth, "a blood pressure cuff, a stethoscope, a fetoscope, or an electronic Doppler device are used to monitor you and your baby," shares Sharon Mikol, M.D. an ob-gyn practicing in Cleveland, Ohio. "If there is any deviation from the norm in the baby's heart rate or mother's condition; there needs to be a plan in place and the water birth needs to be abandoned if necessary. One of the worst things to do is to ignore a problem in the early stages, hoping it will go away." Be aware that you'll need to get out of the tub if fetal monitoring shows a problem, your labor progresses too slowly, you start bleeding, your blood pressure gets too high, the water gets very dirty, or you feel faint.
Lucy Hansen, a mother from Coolidge, Arizona, explains why she abandoned her water birth. "With my fourth child, Ivy, I was doing a planned home birth with a midwife. I went into labor on my own, but only a few hours into it I had a really strong contraction and I felt wet. So I went to the bathroom and there was bright-red blood. My midwives came and they checked everything out. After about 30 minutes I had another big wave of blood, so we immediately went to the hospital. I had rented a birthing tub but we never even got it out. My daughter was born at the hospital with lots of blood on her, but she was very healthy and thankfully nothing major ended up happening. My next child was born at home in my bathtub, a water birth."
You may find that laboring in water simply doesn't do it for you. Perhaps those painful contractions are, well, still really painful. Be open to the idea that water may not alleviate the pressure for you and that getting out of the tub and trying different positions in a dry environment might be more ideal. Be creative and flexible when planning alternatives to the tub. Walk around, use the shower or a birthing ball instead, or head to the hospital if need be, but don't endure the tub only because you wanted to have a water birth. It's all right to aim for your ideal birth plan, but remember that plans change, especially when it comes to something as unpredictable and delicate as childbirth. Be knowledgeable but flexible, and be gentle with yourself if you didn't achieve a birth that's exactly how you planned. Just remember that delivering a healthy baby is the ultimate birth plan.
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