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What is Water Birth?

When it comes to choices surrounding the birth of our babies, we have a lot of options. One of those options includes whether to have your baby in air or water. If you’ve been reading about natural childbirth, you’ve probably come across the term water birth but wasn’t quite sure what it entailed.

In this guide, we will discuss what exactly water birth is, if it has benefits and whether or not you should have one.


What is Water Birth?

When a woman has a water birth, all or part of her labor and delivery happens in a birth pool. A water birth can take place in some hospitals and birthing centers equip with tubs. Alternatively, you can choose to have a water birth at home in the presence of a midwife or other certified health care professional.

A woman in a birth pool can float on her back, float on her stomach, lay on her side, kneel or squat, depending on what’s comfortable. During this time, if you choose a midwife, she will check your vitals, the temperature of the pool and monitor your contractions and how dilated your cervix is.

You may be wondering how a newborn baby can breathe underwater. If you choose to give birth in the pool, your baby will sink to the bottom, but since she’s still attached by the umbilical cord, she is still getting oxygen. As the healthcare professional carries her out of the pool and into the air, she will take her first breath.

So, how common is water birth? The short answer is that we don’t know. Since the practice has not been studied outside of home births, there is no U.S. data available. In the U.K., about 1.5% of hospital births take place in a birth pool. That percentage rises to 58% in a midwifery unit. Despite the lack of data, we know that water birth is gaining popularity, even with celebrities.

In 2009, model Gisele Bundchen gave birth in her bathtub and told the DailyMail that it “didn’t hurt in the slightest.”

Lucy Lawless, star of Xena: Warrior Princess, told New Weekly, “I wanted to have my baby as naturally as possible; nothing is more natural than having him in water. The baby is essentially floating in water for nine months to begin with, so it’s a smoother transition when he’s born.”

Pamela Anderson gave birth to both of her sons in water, along with moms Alyson Hannigan from How I Met Your Mother and actress Ricki Lake.


Benefits of Water Birth

During the first stage of labor (when contractions start), it is said to ease pain and make labor quicker. The warm water can also provide comfort and relaxation.

It is also said to reduce stress hormones and lower blood pressure if a mother is anxious. In this way, water birth may have physical and mental benefits.

Some people feel that giving birth in water also has benefits. They believe that sitting upright in water makes it easier to push out the baby. Some think that giving birth in water will be less of a shock to the baby since the warm water can mimic the womb and make for an easier transition into the world. While this is just a theory, it is often reported that babies who are born in water cry much less than babies born in air.


Studies on Water Birth

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) being in water during the first stage of labor is associated with a shorter labor and a decreased use of spinal and epidural analgesia.

However, the organization says there is not enough information to confirm the benefits or risks of water birth during the second stage of labor and delivery. For this reason, the ACOG’s official stance on birth is that it should not take place in water.

Women who participated in interviews or questionnaires after a water birth labor reported positive feelings such as relaxation, privacy and an ability to maintain control.

The studies that have been conducted on water birth aren’t uniform, making it hard to draw conclusions. For example, studies vary on which stage of labor a woman is immersed in water, water temperatures, depth of water, etc. Without a standard set of conditions, it is hard to understand the safety and potential risks of water birth.

Although the research isn’t conclusive, some studies suggest that laying in water could make severe vaginal tearing less likely. It could also improve blood flow to your uterus.


Who Should Have a Water Birth

The ACOG says that water birth can be considered by women with uncomplicated pregnancies, who are healthy and between 37 and 41 weeks.

According to WebMD, you shouldn’t try water birth if:

  • You’re younger than 17 or older than 35
  • You have diabetes or an infection
  • You’re having more than one baby
  • You’re having a premature or large baby
  • Your baby is breech


Water Birth Risks

During the second stage of labor, it may be riskier to be in a birthing pool. If there’s an emergency, such as having to do an emergency C-section, getting you out of the water could waste valuable time.

There are also risks associated with the cleanliness of the pool. Although hospitals and birthing centers have strict cleaning procedures after each use, if it is not sanitized properly, you could get an infection.

The ACOG cautions pregnant woman about delivering their baby underwater due to potential complications.

Rare water birthing complications include:

  • Umbilical cord breaking in water
  • Infection
  • Baby seizures or repertory issues
  • Baby’s temperature too high or low


Another con is that as you’re pushing your baby, your bowels may open in the water. Although this is very common and is immediately cleaned by your midwife, there can be a chance of infection when the water is exposed to a bowel movement.


Cost of a Water Birth

If you have a water birth in a hospital, it will usually cost the same as a vaginal birth; however, you may have to pay an extra $200 to $400 for a tub rental.

Water births in a birthing centre cost around $2,300 on average.

If you have a home birth, you may need to purchase your own tub, which can range from a cheap $70 model to more expensive models costing $500. Some midwives may also have birthing pools available to rent.

Depending on a few factors, your own bathtub may work for a home birth. A standard tub is about two feet deep, the same depth as a birthing pool. If you want a partner to be in the water with you, make sure your tub can comfortably fit two people. If you choose to use your bathtub, have your midwife check it out beforehand to make sure it meets the requirements and is clean enough to prevent infections.

You will also need to pay for a midwife or a nurse to be present if you choose a water home birth.


Choosing Water Birth

If you choose water birth, you should educate yourself and ask the proper questions beforehand. Check with your doctor to ensure you’re a good water birth candidate.

Firstly, you need to check if your hospital offers water birth. If they do, ask about their rules surrounding labor. Can you choose when you want to lay in the birthing pool? Are you only allowed in when your contractions are strong? Some hospitals will allow you to lay in the pool when you decide it’s right, while others will make you wait until you’re 6cm dilated. Decide what you’re comfortable with.

If your local hospital doesn’t offer water birth, you will need to choose between a birthing centre or a home birth with a midwife. Ask your health care provider what procedures are in place in case of an emergency. Inquire about their cleaning and maintenance procedures and ask how they control infections. If you want your partner to be in the pool with you or just close by, ask what the rules are surrounding family being present.

You will also need to decide how much of your labor you want to take place in the birthing pool. You can use it to help relieve pain in the first stage of labor, but give birth out of water. Alternatively, some women choose to stay in the pool until they have their baby. You can also choose to see how you feel at the time and decide whether birth on land or in water is more comfortable.

If you use the pool for hours during early contractions, the water will eventually need to be changed. Pools with filtration systems and preheated water aren’t recommended because of the risk of bacteria.


Are you contemplating a water birth? If so, comment your reasons below. If you have pregnant friends or family members, share this article with them, too!

P.S. Pregnant and want a better bonding experience with your baby? Some of our water proof fetal dopplers are perfect for water birth and will give you and your partner the amazing ability to listen to your baby’s heartbeat at home.







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About Mithu Kuna

Mithu is a tech-savvy entrepreneur. He is a founder of Baby Doppler and enjoys incorporating AI driven technology in baby and maternity IoT devices.

One thought on “What is Water Birth?

  1. Your advice to educate yourself and check with your doctor to make sure you’re a good candidate is a great idea. This could help you stay healthy and make sure the birth goes smoothly. When you’re talking to your doctor, you’d probably want to see if they have any recommendations for a midwife so you can choose one that can provide a safe water birth.

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