Water Birth

The idea of immersing yourself in a big tub of warm water and having a relaxed birthing experience could be a dream to many pregnant mothers. In a way, yes, it is! However, it is important to be aware of the overall process of water birthing and the potential risks involved, before you decide about bringing your fantasy birthing dreams alive. Here is some need-to-know information about water birth.

Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020 11:29 GMT

Water Birth
Water Birth
How is water birthing done?

Water birth can happen either at a birthing center or from the comfort of your home and must be assisted by an experienced doula, midwife or doctor. During labor, you’ll be seated comfortably with belly immersed and legs stretched inside a huge tub or pool of warm water. Rejuvenating salts like Epson salts may be added to the water to make the experience more soothing. Some women prefer to stay in the water only during labor and change to the traditional birthing way while some others continue both labor and birthing inside water.

Is water birth for you?

The health of the pregnant mother and the growing fetus must be in favor, in order to consider water birthing. Some of the conditions that are mandatory for water birth are:

ü  You are at least 37 weeks pregnant

ü  Your baby is in head-down position when labor begins

ü  You do not carry any risks for infection

ü  You had a normal pregnancy with no serious complications

ü  Your baby shows no signs of fetal distress

How to prepare for water birth?

Water birth isn’t as simple as filling in a tub with water and getting into it when your labor begins. Here are three important preparatory steps for water birthing:

·         Procuring the water tub and accessories

The cleanliness of the tub and sterility of water used is the primary factor which determines the safety of your baby’s health. Most people rent a water tub from the service providers. You will also need to buy a hygienic birth pool liner and filters to separate the solid discharges during labor. You can also use your home bathtub provided you are reassured about hygiene and as well it gives enough space for your midwife to move around with ease.

·         Deciding on where to deliver your baby

Most water birthing happen at dedicated birthing centers. Birthing centers are equipped with the first level of emergency care like oxygen supply, infant care, IVs etc. which can look after the mother and the baby during an emergency before being moved to a hospital. There are a few hospitals too which provide water birth facilities. You may also opt to have it at your home. Discuss with your health care provider or midwife about all the possibilities, the advantages and risks associated with each.

·         Becoming aware of the benefits and risks associated with water birth

If required, take a class on water birth or speak to an expert in detail. Mentally, go through the steps and situation you will have to face during labor in water. Make alternate plans in case something doesn’t go the way you had planned. Be thoroughly aware of the benefits and risks of water birth for you and your baby.

What are the benefits of water birth?

·         The primary reason for water birth recommendation is the fact that the baby survives in a pool of amniotic fluid in the womb and during water birth the baby is brought out in an ambience which is close to its womb life. This is thought to smooth the birthing process for the baby and reduce baby’s stress levels in the first few minutes soon after birth.

·         Water birth is most close to the natural birthing process which gives full freedom to the mother to move around and take control of her labor. This process, by far, helps the release of the right levels of hormones which sends signals to the baby to express its primitive reflexes without any external human intervention.

·         Immersing in water is soothing and relaxing to a mother in labor which gives a better birthing experience.

·         Water makes her body feel light which reduces labor pain and the efforts involved in the birthing process.

·         Most often, water birth eliminates the need for drug induction, or the intervention of medical equipments to pull the baby out.

What are the risks involved in water birth?

There exist controversies about the prevalent of risks of water birth between the study reports from the American and the European countries. While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and American Academy of Pediatrics do not recommend water birth beyond the first stage of labor, a study from UK has proved there isn’t any significant difference in mortality rates between babies born from water birth and low-risk women delivered conventionally.

The following are the potential risks that may be associated with water birth:

·         Since the birthing pool cannot be completely free of vaginal discharges and fluids during birthing, there is a risk of water aspiration and infection to the newborn.

·         Usually babies do not begin to breathe air until they are exposed to air. In a water birth, by a rare chance if a baby gasps for air in the birth canal, it may lead to inhalation of water soon after birth which becomes an emergency medical condition.

 

References

·         Birth, bath, and beyond: the science and safety of water immersion during labor and birth. (2014).The Journal of perinatal education, 23(3), 124-34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4210671/

·         Gilbert, R. E., & Tookey, P. A. (1999). Perinatal mortality and morbidity among babies delivered in water: surveillance study and postal survey. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 319(7208), 483-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC28200/

·         APA. (2015). Water: The Benefits and Risks. American Pregnancy Association. http://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/water-birth/

 

·         Water Birth Pros and Cons: Is it Right for You? https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/water-birth

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