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Water Birth

Dr. Shawn A. Tassone

Reviewed by
Dr. Shawn A. Tassone

Water Birth

Water births are when a mother gives birth to her baby in a tub of water that is 97 degrees Fahrenheit. The belief behind the water birth theory is that giving birth to a baby in an environment similar to the amniotic sac, will ultimately be gentler and less stressful for the baby and mother. Water births should always take place under the supervision of a health care professional. Midwives, birthing centers and obstetricians are growing more fond of this type of delivery since most of them believe that by reducing the stress during labor and delivery also reduces complications with the baby.

Benefits of Water Births

Babies aren’t the only ones who benefit from water births, numerous mothers have chosen this method of delivery for more selfish reasons, such as:

Benefits for Mother:

  • Water helps increase the mothers energy in final stages of labor
  • Water is calming, comforting and relaxing
  • Water allows for easier maneuvering and lessens body weight
  • The buoyancy improves blood circulation which has numerous benefits to mom and baby
  • Being in the water helps keep blood pressure low
  • Water helps moms body to produce endorphins which helps ease pain
  • Water reduces chance of tearing the perineum

Benefits for Baby:

  • Similar environment as amniotic sac that he/she has been in for 9 months
  • Isn’t as stressful dealing with sounds, lights and colors
  • No rush to remove baby from water since he/she receives oxygen from the placenta and umbilical cord

Risks During Water Births

Unfortunately, as water births have gained popularity over the past few decades, studies and research has not kept up. Many experts believe water births are not a great way to deliver a baby due to risks such as the baby inhaling water. Another concern is that water increases the chance of infection. Some people feel that proper cleaning and sanitizing procedures are not being done in between births via birthing tubs, and therefore increases the chance of bacteria left behind.

Another issue that is commonly argued has to do with the maternal blood loss. There is technology available to measure the amount of blood lost by the mother during birth, however many doctors prefer to use the placenta as a measurement tool. Still, the argument continues as some doctors and midwives believe that waterbirths actually reduce the amount of maternal blood loss.

There is also a risk when choosing which tub to use. You can rent a birthing tub for under $400. Birthing tubs, unlike hot tubs, whirlpools, bathtubs, or blow up tubs are specifically made to stay at 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Other options can increase the risk of you becoming dehydrated or overheated, which turns into risks for your baby. Which ever tub you choose, make sure you stay hydrated at all times.

Am I a Candidate for a Water Birth?

There are some circumstances that make or break a mothers ability to deliver her baby via water birth. These things include:

  • Having herpes
  • Having toxemia or preeclampsia
  • Having multiples
  • Having an STD
  • If baby is breech
  • If preterm labor is expected
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with excessive bleeding or maternal infection
  • If meconium is severe

Other circumstances that can qualify or disqualify you from being able to birth via water can include:

  • Hospital not equipped or staffed for the procedure
  • Hospitals may not be water-birth friendly
  • Insurance companies may or may not reimburse expenses associated with water births, such as renting a tub.

[Page updated February 2015]