Before shelling out $250 or more to purchase a tub for your water birth, consider the more budget-friendly option of using your own tub. Home tubs are often an acceptable option than renting a tub, but they do need to fulfill basic requirements for overall comfort, such as size, accessibility, cleanliness, water temperature, and necessary items.
Most tubs available for rent are about two feet deep, a comparable depth to the current tub in your bathroom. You might think that a standard-size tub isn't sufficient for a water birth, but to borrow Tim Gunn's mantra, you can "make it work." A bigger Jacuzzi tub, if you have one, is ideal, but not necessary. Otherwise, make sure you, your belly, and your partner (if you choose to have one accompany you in the tub) fit comfortably, which means you need to give the tub a test run before deciding, as Heidi Klum says, if it's "in or out." Most important, make sure your belly can be fully submerged; this increases buoyancy, which can alleviate some of the pain and pressure of labor.
Your home tub doesn't need to be a certain shape, but you do need to think about accessibility. "Most home bathrooms are not made to accommodate the number of people that might be needed to get the mother out of the tub quickly if she needs assistance, nor are most bathtubs positioned in such a way that someone could get on either side to help her out of the tub," says Sharon Mikol, M.D., an ob-gyn practicing in Cleveland. If you're using a home tub in a confined space and with limited access, speak with your midwife about your options in case of an emergency and plan what you'll do if something goes awry. "Asking a full-term pregnant woman in the throes of labor to get up and out of the bathtub all by herself without slipping and falling is not reasonable or safe," Dr. Mikol says.
When it comes to cleaning your bathtub, the process of sterilizing it is simple. Clean the tub with a nonabrasive cleaner, such as Comet or Lysol. Then use a 10 percent bleach and water mixture (one part bleach for every nine parts water). A good amount to start with is 1/4 cup of bleach and 2 1/4 cup of water. Rinse thoroughly. You'll want to bleach the tub again after you deliver. For those who tend to identify as germophobes, some midwives believe that because the germs are your own, they are less likely to be unsafe.
Warm water isn't just preferable, it's necessary, so keep the tub water at the correct temperature, between 95 and 101°F. If the water is too cold, it can be detrimental for the baby. "Newborns lack the ability to regulate their body temperature in the first moments of life. If the baby is born and placed in water that is not warm enough, his body temperature will lower, which can be dangerous and life-threatening," Dr. Mikol says. "Babies with low body temperature cannot shiver to get warm, like adults do, and it can predispose them to breathing problems, increase their risk of infection, and decrease their oxygenation."
It can be a challenge to maintain the water warm for an extended period of time, especially if labor is long. Use the floating thermometers available for baby bathtubs to monitor the water; if it starts to cool, add warm water to keep the temperature stable. But make sure the water isn't too warm, which "can burn the mom's or the baby's skin. It also can cause the mom's blood vessels to dilate, which can lead to a lack of blood flow to her head, and she'll get dizzy or feel sick," Dr. Mikol says. On the other hand, it's also important not to get into the tub too soon. Even though it may feel comfortable, don't get into the water until you are in active labor or even pushing. "Getting in the tub in early labor can feel comfy, but it can also slow the process down and stall things," Dr. Mikol states.
You don't need much more than a tub and water to have a water birth, but there are a few things that will make the process easier, and perhaps more comfortable.
If you decide not to use your tub, your midwife can help you find a company that offers birth tubs, or she may have one you can rent. You can also buy an inflatable birth pool that can be used for multiple births. Using an inflatable pool can be cozier than a home tub because the sides are softer, making it easier to for you to position your body.
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