Water Birth? Why Not?

Some women, when interviewed, commented:
"I was weightless and I could turn so easily. I felt that I actually delivered my own baby."

"No one shouted at me to 'push.' I pushed when I needed to push. Because no one could really see 'down there,' I felt like I avoided a lot of needless exams."

"When the baby came out, the midwife brought him to the surface and he just breathed. He didn't cry '- he just took in this deep breath and wrinkled his nose. I think he was telling us he disapproved of this 'air stuff.'"

In general, I've noticed that babies born in water seem more content, cry less and don't startle as much as those born in bed. They have a longer time to make the transition to the world. They can focus on their breathing without expending the calories needed to stabilize their temperatures and glucose levels. They are born into a familiar environment of muffled sounds and warmth. As they are put to their mother's breast, there's no contact with cold hands and no need for rough blankets. They seem to say, "That wasn't too bad!"

So Why Don't Babies Drown?
In most water births (and all those that take place in U.S. hospitals and birthing centers), babies are brought to the surface immediately after birth. Once released from the pressure on their chests within the birth canal, they are met with the natural resistance of the water pressure and it discourages gasping. Water babies don't encounter the dry air and significant temperature change that greatly stimulates the breathing reflex. But as their heads gently emerge from the water, the air does offer sufficient stimulation to breathe.

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