Although this idea doesn't appeal to all women, a significant number of children are born in home water births every year. One of the major benefits that women report from water births is that it reduces the pain by a significant margin while still allowing a natural birth (versus an epidural). If you are curious about this practice or if you have chosen it, here are a few tips on how to prepare.
Read All You Can
The best defense against any potential problem is knowledge -- wherever you can find it. Even though you will most likely be seeking the counsel of a midwife or obstetrician, you should still know exactly what to expect and understand the process for yourself. It also helps to read the testimonies of women who have had water births in the past. WaterBirths.org has a lot of great information, as does Well.com.
Understand the Mechanics
A water birth is exactly what it sounds like -- your baby will be born under water. Usually, women who elect water births have the procedure done in their home or in the home of their midwife. There are specially-designed tubs that facilitate water births, and the water birth should not be attempted in a regular tub or jacuzzi. The procedure is generally safe because the baby will not attempt to take his or her first breath until oxygen is available, and he or she can continue to breathe through the umbilical cord until it is cut.
Find a Midwife or Obstetrician
No expecting mother should plan a water birth alone. Even if you are an experienced midwife yourself, you will still require assistance. Ask friends or relatives for a referral or see if your OB/GYN is willing to do the water birth for you. If you still cannot find a midwife, check with the Water Birth International Organization or another reputable website for listings of midwives in your area.
Locate a Birthing Tub
You can find birthing tubs at specialized stores in your area or online. You can also elect to use a friend's birthing tub, but make sure that you replace the liner with a fresh one and that the tub is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before use. If you are going to have a home birth, make sure that the birthing tub is placed in an area where there is plenty of room surrounding it and other furniture won't get in the way. It is usually best to place the birthing tub on a tile surface. You can purchase plastic sheets or other throws to lay on the floor around it.
Have a Way to Fill the Tub
Your birthing tub cannot be filled with a garden hose; the temperature must be just right. Most midwives prefer the temperature in the tub to be between 92 and 99 degrees Fareinheit so that both mother and child are comfortable. You can also have someone else in the tub with you -- your spouse, a friend, a family member or even an older child.