http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzK99SARLnA&feature=player_embeddedThis one brought tears to my eyes
I know that at the hospital I work at allows for women to labor in the pool, which are very limited, but don't allow a woman to birth in the pool. The reasons for this aren't clearly documented as I was able to find an affiliated hospital located in Sacramento and Davis that do allow for water births. In fact, Sutter Health Auburn lists the benefits of a water birth on their hospital website.
The Benefits of Water Labor for Delivery
Sutter Women's Services
Check outJenny's Story
What are the benefits of water for labor/delivery? It can relieve pain by making the uterus buoyant (floating) which eases some of the pressure of labor. Also, the warmth and motion of the water along your nerve fibers is thought to block some of the transmission of pain. Additionally, warm water helps the skin around the birth canal to stretch better during delivery.
Monitoring your contractions and your baby's heart rate can easily be accomplished in the tub through our telemetry monitoring system. The telemetry monitor is a portable box that connects to the monitor leads around your body. The portable box transmits the heart rate and contraction readings to the fetal monitor in your labor room. You can walk, shower, and get in the tub while being monitored.
So why wouldn't the rest of the Sutter hospitals offer this option for its mothers? One labor and delivery nurse told me it's because the nurse can't be on both sides of the tub as the baby is delivered. Some people might say that it's because you can't be monitored while in the water. This is untrue as a nurse/midwife can use a Doppler to listen to the baby's heart rate under water.
I was fortunate to have a water birth as an option given to me in the UK. I expressed my wishes for a water birth early on in my pregnancy and found the water to be a huge pain relief while I labored at home. In fact, I was in the water for more than five hours! Shall we say PRUNE!!! What I was also very shocked by, being that this was my first baby, is that I didn't experience any perineal damage... no tears! After watching the videos my original assumption shows to be true... less tearing noticed in water births. Personally, I think that this may be due to the fact that the skin becomes more supple thus allowing for more stretching... maybe?
I have linked a website explaining benefits and considerations of having a water birth.
Unfortunately, there aren't many options for women to have a water birth in the US unless they opt for a home birth. I'm all for it, but sadly fear still plays a major factor and home births occur at about 1% in the US. I know that we are planning to have a home birth for our next child. I have yet to interview midwives but I have received a few references. All I do know is that all women should be given the choice of how they choose to labor. So, in order for change to happen we have to speak up!