Water all the way!

Water births are gaining in popularity, although some people still consider them to be rather unconventional! I personally believe water birthing gives the mother, baby and partner the best possible experience.

Far from being an “unconventional birthing method” according to OK! Magazine, water birthing has been around for many years.

In fact, I was the first doctor to do a water birth in a London hospital in the eighties.
It might sound like an odd idea; giving birth in a paddling pool or large bath, but there are actually many benefits.

Photo credit: cambiodefractal at flickr.com

Photo credit: cambiodefractal at flickr.com

  • Being in water allows the mother free range of movement, especially compared with lying on a hospital bed, with legs in stirrups!
  • The water is a great medium that provides muscle relaxation. This muscle relaxation helps the cervix to dilate rapidly.
  • The water also gives the mother the ability to relax better between contractions. The baby enjoys emerging into the warm water that is welcoming and gives the baby a sense of a soft welcome into the world.
  • Warm water can reduce the pain of contractions. Mothers who have a water birth are less likely to need pain relieving drugs. Water birthing is much safer than having an epidural, and it doesn’t harm the baby.
  • The water supports the mother, helping her to feel weightless, save energy and also to move around and change position during labour.
  • The pool is a calming, relaxing place away where the mother and her partner can relax and mothers who use a birthing pool tend to feel less stress. The more relaxed the mother, the more efficient labour is likely to be.
  • Partners may also bond better with the mother during labour, because the whole experience is less stressful. A happy birth experience enhances the ability of the mother and father to bond with the baby.
  • Women who have a water birth are also less likely to tear because the tissues are softer and more relaxed in water.
  • Baby emerges into water, happy, calm and relaxed!

It’s important to remember, however, that a successful water-birth requires preparation throughout the entire pregnancy. The mother’s pelvic tissues need to be clear, light and as soft as jelly so that the baby finds it easy to engage and descend down the birth passage easily. This kind of preparation is important for around 80% of women, with diet and lifestyle changes helping to soften the tissues.
If you’re pregnant, and looking for a gentle birth experience, why not ask your midwife about water birthing. I promise, you, your partner and your baby won’t regret it!

Rebecca Malhotra’s Waterbirth Story – November 2008

Josh_Jai_MalhotraBirth of Josh Jai Malhotra

Vital Statistics
Born 26/11/2008 6.28 pm
3.66kg (8lbs 1 ounce)
Standard Vaginal Delivery (H20 – Yay!!!)

early labour started around midnight to 2.20 pm

1st stage 3hrs 30mins
2nd stage 18mins
3rd stage 52mins
Total labour 4 hrs 40 mins (yay)

Contractions started around midnight, I’m a little vague as I popped on Gowri’s relaxation and hypnosis CD and tried to hibernate like a bear through the night. Counting my breaths during the contractions helped me relax and also helped me track my progress – throughout the night the contractions were becoming more frequent, stronger and longer in length. With both CDs on repeat I was in and out of hypnosis all night and at 6 am I woke Sanj (husband and daddy!) so he could arrange childcare for our son. The midwives had told us to go to the hospital when we were having 3 contractions every 5-10 minutes as they were concerned that with baby no. 2 the labour would be much quicker, so we headed off to the hospital at 7.30 am – Sanj also wanted to avoid peak hour traffic. Whilst 12 pm – 7.30 am may sound long, I was drifting in and out of my safe place and was really rather relaxed, energised even though I hadn’t slept deeply. Once in the car things really slowed down, we went for a long walk around the nearby park after checking into the birth centre but not much happened until Lisa (Gentle Birth Method practitioner and lifesaver!) arrived just after 10 am. I was given a fab treatment, giving me a bit of timeout before refocusing. Lisa took control of the reflexology, creative healing massage and homeopathic treatment. Amazing the difference in strength with Lisa’s thumbs pressed on my toes (tenfold stronger, amazing).  Sanj took control of the refueling, feeding me bananas, health bars and water. He took me on the much needed second longer walk to speed things up again. He helped out with the Reflexology and provided constant support physical and emotional throughout the contractions.

Since arriving at the hospital, the contractions had gone from being consistent and building up to being irregular in both frequency and length, which I found hard to get over. I kept regretting our haste to get to the hospital. Lisa was fantastic in getting my mind off it and bringing me back to the task in hand. At one of my low points between 5- 6 pm; I was ready to give up on the birth centre and starting talking about having an epidural upstairs in the labour ward, I felt I had tried my best and hit a wall. Fortunately Lisa suggested we get the midwife to check the dilation and if ok, try the pool. With Sanj and Lisa being as positive as ever at this point I got the much needed boost to give it one last go. The midwife confirmed I was 6 cms but my hind waters had not broken. We decided to have the waters broken then jump in the pool for pain relief. The relief was instant. With the help of Lisa massaging my lower back and the midwife advising me to relax my buttocks, (genius), I felt the head physically move down, a sense of relief and with the next set of contractions, the urge to push. I had gone from 6 cms to 10 cms almost instantly! I had to tell Lisa to stop massaging as it just wasn’t doing it for me any more. So Sanj took over with the gas and air as the crucial tool and both Lisa and Sanj gushed encouragement. Within about 45 mins of my waters being broken baby Josh Jai was born.

I was taken out of the water after a fab long cuddle with Josh, Sanj and tears of  joy. I was awarded Josh after the 2 tiny stitches – meanwhile Josh was having a quick cuddle and skin on skin time with Dad. I was also granted some much awaited toast to have while breastfeeding, (having avoided wheat for so long I was craving just plain toast and butter, white toast too, how naughty!)

Having the baby in the water was magical for me and all those present.

We had used Reflexology, Self  Hypnosis, Creative Healing, gas and air, and a fraction of the time 17 hrs v 4hrs 40mins, largely thanks to the Gentle Birthing method and especially Lisa.

I had just 2 superficial stitches / grazes thanks to Gowri’s stretch technique and my diligent husband who performed this task religiously every evening.

The baby arrived 2 days before my due date; listening to the tape I was adamant this would be the case.

I am happy to say the our baby is very contented and we are very grateful for the amazing birthing experience, not to mention the little miracle that is our boy! Such a positive experience and such a positive start for our new little man. Thank you!!


Ali Norell’s Home Birth Story – October 2008

ali_norell_littleMy waters started to break on a Thursday evening while out at dinner with some friends, once we got home, the waters had stopped leaking so I decided against calling our doula or midwife in favour of going to bed – I was convinced that nothing would happen for another 12 to 24 hours!

I woke refreshed after a really good night’s sleep and told my husband to go to work as I really didn’t think anything was happening – I didn’t even have any cramps. Wisely, he decided to stay! I decided to run a bath and the minute I got into it I started to feel the contractions, but the bath felt “wrong” at this stage so I got out. From the first until the last, the contractions were consistently 4 minutes apart with a good 3-4 minute break in between, so I told my husband that this couldn’t possibly be anything to get excited about as it would probably be like this for hours until the contractions were closer together.

We called our doula and she arrived within an hour. The contractions were fairly intense, and I was starting to feel like bearing down. I knew that I shouldn’t be doing this too early in case my perineum swelled up. However, our doula was pretty experienced and said we should call the midwife straight away. The contractions were not painful but intense at this point so I asked my husband to attach the TENS machine, which was set at 3.

The community midwife arrived and though she respected my wish to be left completely alone for the duration of my birthing, she asked to perform one vaginal examination. I agreed and to my amazement, I was already at 8 cm – hence my urge to start pushing! At this point I was able to get into the birthing pool, so the TENS machine came off and it felt fantastic to be in the water. Within half an hour I was fully dilated and able to start pushing. The pushing stage was a little longer than we all anticipated as I had foolishly not eaten all day and was getting a little tired by this point, but after some Caullophyllum and a drink of sugar water, I was ready to push for real.

The feeling when our son emerged was surreal and amazing – so empowering. The support of everyone around me had been wonderful, and above all I valued the fact that they had all respected my wishes to birth alone, until the last moment when my husband came to support me. The midwife and doula were quietly in the background.

It was only after I had given birth that I realised that it hadn’t even occurred to me to ask for gas and air – I had completed my birth without any further need for pain relief, I was so “in the zone”. I had simply focussed on the breathing techniques from my regular yoga practice.

Kasper Oliver Rohan weighed in at 8lbs 8oz and was 54cm long with loads of hair. We were left alone as a threesome for some time before my husband cut the cord and I birthed the placenta while he held Kasper skin to skin.

I can honestly say that giving birth was the most beautiful and peaceful experience, and one which I hope to use to help the many women with whom I work as a therapist, healer and birth doula.

Ali Norell MAR, MICHT
Reflexology and Complementary Therapy


Sally Murray Birth Story

Sally found that being in “another place” was good for her during labour. She had a water-birth and found that the contractions felt entirely different in water.

I started pre-labour at 1 am on Thursday (16th) of August with diarrhoea and crampy pains. I didn’t know it was pre-labour; I really believed it was just diarrhoea, which seems ridiculous now after all that I had read before and there being specific notes written about diarrhoea as being a sign of pre-labour! Looking back I should have realised it was the beginning signs of labour, but I was sure at the time that it wasn’t. I slept until about 8 am after emptying my bowels during the night several times and I still had crampy feelings in the morning, like slight period pains, but continued the day as normal. I went shopping for things to take to the hospital to eat and drink and had lunch at a restaurant. By about 2 pm, the cramps were coming and going, but were still not uncomfortable, though by this time I had realised this probably the beginning of labour.

I went home and lied down at 3.30pm for half an hour and as I got up my waters broke, but it wasn’t a big gush as I had thought it would be, just about a cupful of water. I then saw that the mucous plug had come away when I went to the toilet and the water coming out had some white specks in it, which the midwives told me was vernix from the baby. At that point the contractions started properly, rather than just the earlier period type pain.

From the time the waters had broken, my contractions felt quite strong, coming and going at about 10 minute intervals, and feeling like an acute type of period crampy pain. This was now about 4 pm and I called the hospital and they told me to wait at home and have a bath and to call them at about 7 pm. I moved to some music during the time at home and had a bath, which I found comforting. I went into hospital at 7 pm, and the contractions felt very intense with a lot of pressure on my back passage almost from the beginning. It was this feeling that I was finding was taking the breath out of me, it was the most difficult part of the pain management. My contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes and when I was first examined, they said I was 4 cms dilated. The time seemed to go by in a dream. I hardly spoke and my midwife did not talk to me, I hardly noticed her there, except to see her sitting in a dark corner writing notes, the lights were all dimmed in the room. I seemed to go to ‘another’ place once I had started the contractions back at home and it continued to be that way the whole way through the labour.  I took contraction by contraction without thinking about the next hour or next minute. That was something I did without thinking; it just seemed to be easiest way, to deal with one contraction at a time. My partner was with me during the whole labour, I used him to drape myself over him during the contractions, which was helpful. He was very supportive, he did not speak hardly at all either, except to gee me along a bit at the height of contractions. At one point though, while I was in the pool, I noticed what I thought was a change in the mood of the room and I thought it was because my partner was feeling impatient and a bit concerned. I asked him to leave for a while and to go for a walk; I needed to not be drawn to thinking about the ‘outside’ world because it made it all more difficult. When I asked him afterwards if he had been feeling concerned or impatient at that point, he said he had not, so I don’t know what the change in atmosphere was – maybe I just became more aware of his presence and needed to withdraw again. During the labour, I know that I thought to myself “this is brutal”, several times. That was the word that came to mind during it all. It was as if my body took over completely and I was just an observer to what my body was doing – an observer in a bit of a haze. The ‘brutal’ feeling came because the contractions felt like a racking of my body from inside. It was not so much a feeling of pain (although obviously it was painful!) but it was the physicality of it, actually feeling the body taking over during a contraction, other forces doing their most primal raw job of opening the body to give birth.

After hours of standing and walking and moving my hips in a figure of eight movement, which seemed to help, I asked if it would be a good time to get into the birth pool as I hadn’t thought of it before then.

The midwife said if that’s what I felt like doing then it was a good idea! This was about 10 pm. As soon as I got into the pool, the next contraction was totally different to the ones before and I felt like a fish flopping itself out onto dry land, I literally almost did. It took me completely by surprise – this must have been the beginning of the second stage but I was so taken aback, I called the midwife in and asked if it was normal! Again, after all that I had read before it should not have come as a surprise but it did. It was from this point that my body really seemed to take over. The feeling of the contractions pushing the uterus down from the top was very powerful, and it was amazing to be aware of the body completely taking over and doing its thing! I actually did not let go as much as I should have, I held on to a little bit of fear and surprise which meant that I was not breathing with the contractions very well, so I felt winded. Looking back, it was at this point that I could have really gone with it all and breathed with it and helped my body in its labour efforts but I did fight against it a little which made it a bit harder. I came out of the pool and I squatted to give birth to my daughter, Ella. At the last stages there was some concern because the monitor was showing that her heart rate was slowing down and not recovering properly after each contraction. I knew my midwife was concerned and she called the obstetrician to come and assist; there was an air of slight panic in the room. I couldn’t speak because I was on my ‘other planet’, but I, myself, was not worried because I saw that Ella’s heart rate recovered after each contraction if I breathed into each contraction and not fight it. I watched this happen on the monitor that was monitoring Ella’s heart rate. As I said earlier, I was aware that I was not breathing deeply enough and that I could have relaxed more into it and concentrated on my breathing, so I was not shocked to see it had an effect on the baby and was not worried at all by the concern in the labour room because I felt I knew it was to do with my breathing and it proved to be true as I watched the monitor and concentrated on my breath. Eventually, after a lot of pushing, she came out at 1.21 am. It was a wonderful relief. I was so tired that I could not pick her up and I have the feeling that this was also to do with my breathing not being deep enough in the last couple of hours. My partner held Ella on his chest until I brought her onto the bed to feed her after about 20 minutes.

It is amazing thinking about it again.

Sally Murray


Rosemary Borthick’s Birth Story

rosemary_cRosemary developed gestational diabetes, which was treated with Creative healing. She worked hard for a good birth following “The Jeyarani Way” Gentle Birth Method and went on to have a home water birth that was a “positive experience”.

At 8.00am on the 19th March I thought I had a ‘show’. I woke up my partner and said I thought something was happening. At 9.00am I phoned the hospital and Gowri. I was getting contractions every 5 minutes. The hospital said that it could well be a false alarm as I was a first time mother and to let them know if there was any change. By 10 am the contractions were every 2 minutes and I also had a slight loss of blood. The pain was intense. I phoned the hospital and Gowri again. The hospital sent an ambulance, but luckily Gowri arrived at the same time and, after examination, confirmed that I was fully dilated. The choice was either to have the baby in the ambulance or at home. So home it was!

I had booked for a home water birth, which the hospital had been reluctant to agree to, because I developed gestational diabetes,(this was treated with Creative Healing on my pancreas from 30 weeks onwards and blood sugars rapidly returned to normal levels), and I was told that the baby could be hypoglycaemic. They also said they might not have enough staff to be able to guarantee a home birth. This was one of the reasons I wanted Gowri to be there as someone I knew and trusted. It became clear that we would not have time to fill up the water pool so I got in the bath. As soon as Gowri got there I felt safe and relaxed. She calmed me with her voice and anticipated my needs and explained what was happening, using visualisation and hypnosis. She also did some reflexology. I used the gas and air from the ambulance, but I mainly bit on the end.

The midwives arrived at 11.15, as did two supervisors, because on the phone they had been told there was blood loss so they were worried. Luckily in the bathroom there was only room for me, Gowri, one midwife and my partner so I had the privacy that I needed.

At 11.45 and a couple of pushes the baby was born. A beautiful healthy 71b 2oz little girl called Poppy. She was not hypoglycaemic and was born very alert, but relaxed. When the midwives left, Gowri performed cranio-sacral massage on the baby and she slept for a long time.

I am pleased that I maintained my desire for a home birth. I am also pleased that the baby was born in water, even if it was the bath, and that the experience was so positive. I am appalled when I listen to many women’s stories of birth.

I worked very hard to achieve a good birth. I had to stick strictly to Gowri’s diet and could have no sugar, (before being pregnant I was a giant bar of whole nut a night girl). I also swam and did yoga, (before being pregnant the most exercise I got was switching the TV channel). Gowri’s treatments including Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Massage, Reflexology, Hypnosis and Visualisation, and Creative Healing definitely helped. I had visualised my baby’s birth and apart from it being a bit quicker than anticipated and 2 days later than it was in my mind, the birth went pretty much as I had visualised.

I had such a positive experience that I am planning my second baby in a few years and I would definitely want Gowri to help me again.

Rosemary Borthick