When it comes time to deliver your baby, you may choose warm water immersion in labour as a way to help promote and facilitate a normal birth, while also providing natural pain relief during established labour.
Provided your pregnancy has been uncomplicated, you have a BMI of 35 or under, and you have progressed to 37 completed weeks of pregnancy, this may be an option for you.
Warm water immersion can be an effective pain relief during labour as it can diminish stress hormones (catecholamines) and reduce pain by increasing the body’s production of pain relievers (endorphins).
The water also provides support and buoyancy that enables labouring women to relax and take advantage of the weightless feeling it provides; easing muscular tension and helping you relax between contractions.
We recommend you wait until you are in established labour, which means that you’re having regular contractions (about every five minutes) and they are lasting about one minute, before you get into the warm water. Sometimes, if you are in very early labour, the water can be so relaxing that labour slows down.
For women in established labour, warm water has been found to promote relaxation which may enhance your oxytocin levels and help labour progress. It is a good idea to talk with your doctor or midwife when you are in labour about the appropriate time to consider getting into the water.
While most normal labour progresses without problems, birth can be unpredictable for both mother and baby.
Your midwife or doctor may ask you to leave the bath because they have identified a problem which they need to investigate with you out of the bath. You will be encouraged to leave the bath every two hours for a short time to walk around and use the bathroom.
Your midwife or doctor will explain to you the importance of the water temperature being regulated at about 37 °C while you are in the bath. This is so you don’t become too cold or overheat during labour and helps encourage relaxation and comfort.
It is also very important to drink plenty of water while you are in the bath to remain well hydrated.
You may be unable to choose warm water immersion in labour if it has been identified as a risk to either you or your baby. It may not be safe for you to consider this option if:
If you would like more information about warm water immersion or think you would like to try this option for pain relief and relaxation in labour, it is important to discuss this with your health professional during pregnancy.
Discussing your choices provides the opportunity for your health professional to go though the benefits with you and help you decide if this is an option you would like to consider for labour.