When Anna was planning for the birth of her third daughter, she knew that she could be in for a quick labor. Her first child was born in eight hours. Her second took only five hours from induction to delivery. It was so fast that the epidural didn’t deliver medication quickly enough to keep up with the pain.
Because another lightning-fast delivery was possible, Anna decided she wanted another way to manage the contractions. What’s more, she knew this was going to be her last pregnancy and that if she wanted to have the experience of an unmediated birth, this was the time to go for it.
She decided on a water birth at the hospital—something she had assisted with several times throughout her career as a nurse in the Family Birth Center at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center (PHSW).
“I feel like water births are a lot more laid back,” she said. “It’s amazing to see how much the water seems to help patients.”
Getting ready for a water birth
At Vancouver Clinic, midwives are the only providers credentialed to help with water births. Anna was already under the care of the midwifery team. In fact, Lauren had delivered her first baby, and Kate her second.
“I wanted low intervention and hands-on care,” Anna said. “I wanted that relationship that comes with a midwife. They provide amazing support throughout labor.”
She talked with Lauren and she agreed that Anna was a good candidate for a water birth. Her pregnancy was low risk and her other prior deliveries had gone smoothly. Anna and her husband David signed up for the preparation class required for all PHSW water births. While Anna knew what to expect from a caregiver’s perspective, she had never been in the tub as a patient before. What’s more, she wanted her husband to understand what to expect during this type of birth.
Not everyone who takes the class decides to move ahead with a water birth, but for Anna, it reinforced her decision to try it. Once everyone was onboard, the only thing left to do was to wait for labor to start.
A couple months later, Anna started feeling light contractions throughout the day. She timed them and could tell that they were more than 10 minutes apart, so she went to bed that evening like usual. She was sound asleep when her water broke and woke her up.
“I had this instinctive feeling to go to the hospital quickly,” she said.
When she and her husband got there, it was clear she was progressing rapidly. Her colleagues worked quickly to get the birthing tub filled with warm water and she got in right away.
“It was amazing going into the water in terms of how much more manageable the contractions felt,” she said.
But it wasn’t long before it was time to push.
“I got to deliver her myself,” she said, describing the hour-and-a-half labor. “It was the most empowering experience to reach down, grab her, and pull her up onto my chest.”
A baby doesn’t take its first breath until air hits its cheek, so Anna didn’t worry about rushing to get her daughter’s head above water. She was able to lift her slowly and gently. She then sat with Clara’s head above water and her body in the tub to keep her warm.
“The transition is very calm and gentle for babies,” she said.
After both assisting with and experiencing a water birth, Anna believes that they are “a great option moms looking for a calm, low-intervention delivery that provides a natural form of pain management.”
Sharing labor and delivery stories
While Anna’s baby is now a little kid, Anna believes it’s important for women to keep sharing their birth experiencesؙ.
“I think it’s important to hear the good—especially for first-time moms,” she said. “And it’s really cool for the kids to know their stories. For Clara, it’s a point of pride for her to talk about how she came into the world.”
Interested in learning more? For a midwife’s perspective on water births, read “Want a natural birth? Try water.” To find out if you’re a candidate for a water birth, talk to your doctor or midwife.