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Hydrotherapy in Labor

The use of water during labor has helped ease pain and been a source of comfort for many decades. Most birth centers and some hospitals have large jetted tubs to be used by their laboring women for comfort.

If your facility does not have tubs, showers as a form of hydrotherapy also works very well. You may stand and lean on the walls or your partner during contractions or take a birthing ball into the shower to sit on.

If hydrotherapy is used in very early labor it can sometimes stall the labor process temporarily because of its relaxation properties. This comfort measure is best used in active labor and until a woman is close to birth. There are not many locations in the U.S. that support water births so that will not be discussed in this article. However, if your facility does allow it, they would be the best source of information about its use.

You will need to prepare to take a bathing suit with you if you want to wear something in the tub or shower, and will need to discuss your wishes with the nurses caring for you. Some facilities have specific parameters around how long you can stay in the tub so it is good to speak with your physician, midwife or nurse practitioner about any rules that they have in place so that you can have realistic expectations about how you will use hydrotherapy when you arrive in labor.

Prior to coming to your birth center or hospital you can certainly use hydrotherapy as a comfort measure at home for many hours. Just be very careful with balance and be sure to have someone help you in and out of the tub or shower.

Dr. Cheryl Sharp, Chief Content Officer
Cheryl is a midwife and women's health nurse practitioner who has been caring for women, newborns, and families more than 30 years. She views the opportunity to journey with women through their pregnancy and beyond as a sacred privilege.