"It's Beyond Water": Stories of Women’s Experience of Using Water for Labour and Birth
This study looks at stories of women’s experience of using water for labour and birth and has explored them to reveal the meaning women make of the experience.
Randomised controlled trials report that there are no statistically significant differences in the outcomes for women who use water when compared to those who do not. It has also established that there are no adverse effects on the mother and baby. However, most of the research to date largely ignores what women have to say about the use of water for labour and birth. This study employed an interpretive design using audio-taped conversations with women as the method of data collection, and a thematic analysis of the stories, to identify the meaning women make of their experiences. The research is informed by a feminist perspective, which honours the women’s voices and knowledge.
The women's stories reveal that the all-encompassing warmth associated with being enveloped in warm water cradles, supports, relaxes, comforts, soothes, shelters and protects the woman, creates a barrier and offers her a sense of privacy. Water can be used in any form, even the act of thinking about, preparing for and anticipating the water opens possibilities for women. Women use water to reduce their fear of pain and of childbirth itself. Women use water to cope with pain, not necessarily to remove or diminish pain and to maintain control over the process of birth. It is not necessary to actually give birth in the water to achieve these benefits.
Recommendations for midwifery practice include the need for midwives to reflect on their role as guardians of normal birth by examining their personal philosophy of birth, critically examining their outcomes and honouring women's knowledge.