Water Birth: From Legend to Modern
In the book “Water Birth,” author Janet Balaskas tells of folklore about women in the Pacific Islands birthing in the sea. Archeologist Marie Parsons explains that during labor in ancient Egypt, basins of hot, steaming water were placed below a birthing chair in order to ease delivery, and others have interpreted Egyptian hieroglyphs to depict actual births in water. It is believed that water births have been practiced for ages; however, the earliest one in written record was from France, over two-hundred years ago, when a mother-to-be was moved from her bed to a bath in order to comfort her during a terribly long and arduous labor. The water seemed to gently speed delivery, alleviate the mother’s discomfort, and present a happy infant. This intriguing event inspired a two-century exploration of birth and water.
When speaking of water birth and its history, it is impossible not to mention Igor Tjarkovsky, a pioneer of water birth research. After the first known documented water birth in the 1800’s, very little research was recorded. Tjarkovsky was the one who helped push water birth study in the 1960’s. It was already a popular practice in many countries around the world, and because of Tjarkovsky’s examinations, many doctors and water birth enthusiasts have strived to make this a viable method here in the United States, and their endeavors have worked. Since the 1980’s, water birthing centers have emerged all over the country and are staffed with midwives trained in water birthing. Most hospitals are now equipped to cater to this approach as well, and you can even purchase your very own pool to use for delivering in your own home.