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Swimming and Birth

Naomi in 1st swimsuitFind out how I think swimming and birth are related

For the last few months I have been watching my children learn to swim.  As I sat on the side of the pool, I was struck by the thought that learning to swim can be similar in a lot of ways to labor and birth.

The idea of labor and birth can feel very scary for some, and no big deal for others, much like swimming. With swimming the level of comfort can depend one where you are swimming, who you are with, and your surroundings.  Everyone has a style that is unique to them.  There are natural swimmers (one might say that they are nearly fish themselves, it comes so easily).  Some of us struggle along, barely able to manage the doggie-paddle.  If we are in the water, our movements should become rhythmic and eventually get us from point A to point B.

Photo: One of Naomi’s first bathing suits.


It feels safe to say that most people have some idea how to swim; the difference being if we have expanded that knowledge or have actually gone swimming.  In the same way, most people have a basic idea of labor and birth.  For some the thought is scary, for others it is full of joy and wonder.  The latter have usually grown up surrounded by pregnant people, birth and babies.  They are much like people who have grown up around water are more comfortable and at home.

How do you feel about where you fall in the spectrum of comfort with your upcoming labor and birth?  Here are some thoughts that might help you gain knowledge and confidence for your journey.


Where do you feel the most comfortable and the most safe?  Giving birth at home, under the care and guidance of a skilled midwife, feels the best for some.  In this case ‘shop around’ for the midwives that serve in your area.  Set up some meetings to get to know them and their style.  Can they meet your needs?

Some families need the safety and security that a hospital environment offers for their birth journey.  In this case look at a hospital, find out what their policies are for birth, and see if you can take a tour.  The more you know about where you are, the more relaxed you can be in your journey.  Shop around for the OB-GYN practices who work at the hospital.  Which one will best meet your needs?

Here are some links regarding choosing a hospital and Obstetrician:

Some families feel very strongly about the way they are hoping that their birth goes, others feel safer in relying on the OB to make wise choices and they trust them without question.  Whether you rely on yourself or your care provider, you have to educate yourself on the process and your rights.  Once you know your options, you can find a provider that will meet your needs.

For some, there is an option between home birth and the hospital.  That option is a birth center.  A birth center offers the relative comfort of a setting that is like home, but still close to the safety of a hospital, with the guidance of midwives and nurses. 

Knowing what your needs are and your comfort level regarding where you want to give birth is a lot like knowing if you like to swim in a pool, lake, ocean, or creek.

Knowledge and Education

As with swimming, we grow our confidence with learning new strokes, breathing styles, and rhythms that help us improve and reach our goals. The information that we know about labor and birth is constantly changing; regardless of whether this is your first baby or fifth, it is a good idea to check into what is the new evidence teaching us; how is it changing how we react to things that come up in labor. As with my daughter learning to swim, (her greatest fear) education and coaching in the moment helped her step past the edge of the pool and into the deep end.  Taking a birthing class can completely change the dynamic of your labor and birth journey. Check out birth class options offered by Kooshlie Care Doula Services.

You have access at your finger tips to a personalized class, whether you need a refresher, or an in-depth study for whatever special situation you are facing. In everything you do, I believe that education is paramount.

Support and Tools

Studies have already shown the benefit of having a trained labor support with you during your delivery (check out this blog post about the study).  I would like to unpack that a little more, in the context of a coach and teacher.  Having a doula present for your labor and birth takes the pressure off of your primary support person.  This allows them to relax and be there to support you, without having to worry about what they need to do next. As you step deep into the waters of labor and birth, the doula is there to help guide your breathing, movement, and to normalize your feelings and sensations.  The peace and comfort that a doula brings to your labor and birth is outstanding.  Each birth is unique, although the path is the same.  Just as a person cannot swim unless he or she gets in the water and has the knowledge, having someone who is dedicated to bringing you comfort and helping you to  find your personal rhythm is like having a swimming instructor who gets in the water with you and helps you through the process. 

As you step into the waters of labor and birth, it can be scary, but it can also be amazing.  I personally believe that we are designed to be in community.  Don’t be afraid to explore and build your community of birth and labor support.