I wish I could say that using water therapy was a sure way to relieve labor pains and here is how... Unfortunately it doesn't always work that way. Every labor and every stage of labor, even with the same person, is different and the effectiveness of water can really swing either way. The one thing I can say for sure is listen to your body and do what feels good.
The goal during labor is to maximize the effectiveness of your contractions. This means we want those suckers to be strong and we want to relax as much as possible in between. Contract, Relax, Repeat. Using the tub in early labor can sometimes weaken those contractions and this is a time that we really want things to be gaining momentum and finding your rhythm for the rest of labor. A good time to get in the tub is in active labor (when contractions are around 3-5 minutes apart and the cervix is dilated to 6 cm).
The tub provides relief best a little farther into labor when things start to get more uncomfortable and your mind starts searching for new ways to relax. When you find that thing that helps you, ride it out as long as possible! Water can be great because it eases the pressure of gravity on your body and allows you to change positions easily and calmly. The warmth of the water, just like a heat pack if you can't be in the tub, can feel very soothing and ease the contractions as well. If the tub or shower is calling your name, here are some tips on making them work for you!
1. Dream of white sandy beaches and bring that tie bikini! Lots of people opt for a sports bra, but the easy off ties on a bikini top make transitions so much easier for when baby comes to your chest or you want to switch things up amidst the I.V. wires in the shower.
2. Make your birth team bring their bikinis too! Ok, at least your partner and it doesn't have to be a bikini. Having their own suit will help them throw caution to the wind and hop right on in there with you. You can lean on them in the shower while the water massages your back, or they can sit behind you like a human lazy boy recliner in the tub. Remember birth is a time for bonding and intimacy!
3. You get a towel, you get a towel, and you get a towel! For a moment I get to be the Oprah of the birth space. Get those towels and put them everywhere. Roll one up and put it under your knees to do hands and knees and sway your hips in the water. Roll one up and put it behind your head as a pillow as you lay back and feel weightless. Lay some over the edge of the tub for a more comfortable resting spot on your side. Here is a random throw in, if you re laboring backward on the toilet it can be better to roll a towel to lean on rather than a bulky pillow. Cover the floor for when you get out so you don't slip and you have a soft place to step rather than a cold tile floor. Cover your partners head if they start to bother you or are saying all the wrong things, sky is the limit!
4. Make that birth space a pool party and bring a noodle with you, it can be great to float your arms for optimal relaxation. If you want to add some beachy vibes to your playlist also, no one will be mad about it.
5. Make sure the water isn't too hot. As much as you might want to throw yourself into a hot tub because ahh sweet heat... don't. It can cause fetal distress and less freedom for the rest of labor. Water should be about body temp.
6. When should you get out? If the Diarrhea hits. If labor stalls and contractions dwindle. If you start to feel like you can't get comfortable anymore. If fetal monitoring is needed. Unless you are having a pIanned water birth, if you start to feel the urge to push. If you damn well please. Remember to listen to your body and use water as one of many possible tools for pain relief!
Go ride those birth waves!