Here’s what you need to know if you’re looking for a gentle, non-invasive birth at home or in water. By Umm Zakariyya
Many women considering a home birth worry that it won’t be as safe as giving birth in hospital, but they want a more private and gentle birthing experience than they may get in a hospital. Well-known alternative birthing advocate, Marianne Littlejohn, believes that one’s home is a viable and safe place for delivery.
“From a biological perspective, a mother needs privacy, comfort, and an environment in which she has people whom she trusts,” says Marianne.
She also finds that moms feel less protected in the frenetic environment of the hospital. So when Marianne meets a pregnant mother, she does a risk assessment in case medical assistance may be required, and helps the mother to make her decision from there.
Marianne recommends a holistic pre-birth programme for home-birth moms, including:
- A healthy diet. Preferably organic and high in protein, with low GI carbohydrates and not too much fruit.
- Exercise. Dancing, yoga, Pilates, walking, or any other form of exercise that gets the heart pumping, three or four times a week.
- Mental preparation. Antenatal workshops that focus on hypno-birthing techniques. These programmes are designed to lessen the pains of labour through massage and relaxation.
- Your home. Hygienic and clean are the basic requirements and moms may find a waterproof sheet and some disposable linen savers useful. The midwife will provide a list of requirements to buy, if necessary.
Marianne says water is the best natural way of relieving labour pains, as it has an analgesic effect, and its buoyancy allows the mother to dictate and facilitate her own movement.
A mom can opt to leave the water at the pushing stage, or may be required to do so if the midwife needs to observe or attend to her. But if things progress well, a water birth can be an empowering experience, with the mother in full control of birthing her baby.
Will my baby be safe in the water?
Babies are contained in a bag of water in the womb, and will continue to breathe through their umbilical cord. Your baby will only take her first breath when she’s out of the water.
Where can I have a water birth?
Apart from at home, water births are an option at hospitals that have an active birth unit where private midwives have access to the facilities. While water births are common at hospitals throughout Europe, there are only a few in South Africa that have active birth units. Your midwife can tell you more about the options.
Birthing tubs are available for hire. Most of these are oval in shape to allow women to stretch out and relax. The standard size is large enough for two people, but there are smaller ones available if you need to fit it into a small space.
Some have a built-in seat or a sponge mattress for additional comfort. They weigh around 6.5kg and can accommodate a total weight of over 700kg including the weight of the water and the mom.
A final word from Marianne is that when parents are well-informed and prepare themselves for the birth, it is possible for the mother, father and baby to have a peak spiritual experience and a happy natural birth.
Marianne is a freelance content creator and copy editor. She has been part of the Living and Loving team in various capacities over the last six years, but since becoming a mom to a boisterous boy, she has found a special interest in parenting issues including discipline, education and early childhood development. When not running after, and negotiating with, her three-year-old, you’ll find her experimenting in the kitchen.