Kansas-based photographer Tammy Karin never passes up an opportunity to capture a water birth. "The mother has this warm, protective barrier around her in which to bring her baby into the world," Karin explains. "She can receive help if wanted or needed, but it's almost like this wonderful force field that lends itself to this more hands-off environment."
Karin, a mom of three herself, adds that "the water birth stories that I have been honored to document have resolved with the most gentle entrances into the world for the baby. From the warmth of his mother to the heated waters, directly into his mother's arms — it's such a smooth transition. I would have loved the opportunity to bring my own babies into the world that way."
What's particularly special about photographing water births, according to Minneapolis-based photographer Jennifer Celine, is "seeing a moments-new baby emerge from the water in Mom and/or Dad's arms."
"Watching a mother's strength, beauty and sense of calm throughout her little one's birth is absolutely incredible," Celine adds.
The theory behind water birth, according to the American Pregnancy Association, is that "since the baby has already been in the amniotic fluid sac for nine months, birthing in a similar environment is gentler for the baby and less stressful for the mother."
Advocates of water births highlight many benefits. It provides non-medicinal pain relief, may reduce blood pressure, promotes relaxation and helps the mother feel more in control during childbirth and labor. Water makes it easier to get into different positions because the buoyancy relieves some of the extra pregnancy weight, and this movement can help the baby to work its way down the birth canal.
While water birth remains controversial in some circles — the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that it is an "experimental procedure that only should be performed within the context of an appropriately designed clinical trial with informed consent" — hospitals are increasingly giving women the option of going through labor or even giving birth in a pool of warm water.
If you've ever wondered what a water birth looks like, these powerful images speak for themselves.
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