The main topic of our Bradley Method® class on Friday night was the first stage
of labor. Through the course of class
and discussing labor techniques, one of our students asked if we had used a
birth tub, and was it a wonderful as they have heard. I had to answer honestly, “I don’t know!”
What we do know and teach as part of the Bradley Method® curriculum is that water
IS an effective labor tool for pain relief.
It is one of several comfort measures we discuss. (Side note: It has many applications besides
labor – think of the whole philosophy and practice of hydrotherapy.) Personally, this is one we used effectively
in all four of our labors.
According to Penny Simkin, founder of DONA International and doula
extraordinaire, “A warm shower anytime during labor is a marvelous soother and
pain reliever, especially if you can sit on a stool and direct a hand-held
shower head just where you want it (on your front or back). The warmth and skin stimulation reduce your
awareness of the pain.
”  (emphasis
As far as using a birth tub: Laboring in a birth tub turned
out not to be an option for us – in our first two labors, we weren’t educated
enough to know that you could take a bath in labor even if your bag of waters
had ruptured. If you like baths – yes,
you can! As Henci Goer points out in her
book, “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth”, there is research that
shows you will not increase your risk of infection. 
I think of it this way: Do you remember that experiment in science class when
you put a tissue inside a glass, turned the glass upside down, and then put
that glass in a bowl of water? What
happened if you pulled the glass straight up?
The tissue was dry! Your vagina
works in a similar way – there is air in the vagina that prevents things from
going upstream unless they are forced (i.e, risk of infection from a vaginal exam).
By our third labor, we knew better and were thinking of using our tub at home
before we went to the hospital. However,
I fell down hard in early labor so we went to the hospital to check on the
baby. Because my bag of waters had
already broken, we were admitted. Our
local hospital did not have the option of birth tubs at the time.
When it came time for our fourth labor and planned
homebirth, we considered laboring in a tub since by that time, I had heard so
many positive stories about laboring and birthing in a tub. The deal-breaker for me was finding out that
we would need a fish net to scoop out any “particles” – no thank you!! I am
pretty squeamish when it comes to things floating in water. I will say that a great majority of the birth
stories I hear from women who plan to labor and/or birth in water are positive ones, they enjoy the overall experience, and they would do it again.
My amazing husband/coach did his part by holding the shower
head over my lower back and waving it back and forth in active labor – all four
times. I remember our homebirth best: as
we got into active labor, we used a birth ball covered with a towel in the shower so I could rock
through the contractions and have the water on my back. As labor intensified, I made a nest with
towels and did tailor sitting, and eventually lay down in a side relaxation position so that Bruss could focus the
water on my hard-working uterus. We
labored that way until it was time to push.
I included some links below to explore if you want to learn
more about using water as a pain management tool, and also a link to Waterbirth
International if you are exploring water birth.
Did you use water as a comfort measure? What worked for you?
More from Penny Simkin, DONA
Barbara Harpber – Waterbirth International
The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical
advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to
determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House,
LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences
of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. This blog contains information about our
classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official
website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not
necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of