Water birth is an option that approximately 60% of mothers in our care choose. Some women purchase a specially made birth pool, some use inflatable kiddie pools, and others use their own home bathtub.
Maternal immersion in water provides pain management, increased relaxation and satisfaction in labor. Birthing in the water also can assist with maternal position which affects position and descent of the baby. To date, no research has proven that water birth is not safe.
Can every woman have a water birth?
Most low-risk mothers are candidates for water birth.
During labor, if your contraction pattern becomes unproductive or your baby’s heart tones become questionable or there is thick meconium, we will have you leave the pool or tub.
Are there any risks for my baby?
The safety of water birth has been firmly established.1 The most serious risk to the infant that has been seen is infection due to a facility using tubs and equipment that harbor bacteria. You must be careful to use your own tub or birth pool, and line a birth pool that has been used before.
In utero, your baby’s lungs are already full of fluid. When the baby is born, some of this fluid is expelled up into and out of the mouth and nose and some of it is absorbed into the lungs. This is part of the initial change in blood flow since the baby’s circulation in the womb does not involve the lungs oxygenating blood. As the fluid is absorbed into the lungs, tiny capillaries pop open like little tents to allow the baby to begin breathing. All of this activity takes a few moments and this is why we are not concerned about a baby being born into water, since it is already in water in the womb.
Babies are also born with what is known as the mammalian dive reflex which means the back of the throat closes in response to being immersed in water. This also prevents the baby from taking the first breath while in the water.
For more information:
- Cluett, E. & Burns, E. (2009). Immersion in water in labour and birth. Cochrane Database Of Systematic Reviews. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd000111.pub3
- Frye, A. (1995). Holistic midwifery. Portland: Labrys Press.
- Tharpe, N. (2013). Clinical practice guidelines for midwifery & women’s health. (4th) Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.