Your Water Birth

For all you birthing needs

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Water Birth Facts

Studies have well documented the many benefits to both mother and baby (and care provider : ) of water labor and birth.

BENEFITS:

More Comfort
Water birth is sometimes referred to as the ‘Liquid Epidural’. The warm water dilates blood vessels and speeds the removal of painful by products of muscle work. Warm water immersion during labor can promote overall relaxation and decrease tension and pain.

Fewer tears
Warm water softens perineal tissue and offers natural counter pressure for gentler delivery of the baby’s head and reduction of possible tearing.

Increased relaxation
The fear-tension-pain cycle is common during childbirth. Warm water immersion promotes relaxation in the mother, giving her a greater sense of security and reduction of fear. Less fear means less tension and thus less pain. A more relaxed mother means a more relaxed pelvis and cervix. This can lead to an improved quality of contraction with less pain and quicker dilation and easier movement for the baby through the pelvis.

Increased mobility for mom
Water immersion provides buoyancy and this means ease of movement for the mother. Allowed to naturally and freely move, a mother will typically take a forward squatting position in the birth pool. Her instinctive movements will assist her baby’s movements through her pelvis during labor.  Water makes it easy for a birthing woman to maintain a more upright position during labor. All of these benefits facilitate quicker and easier births.

Lower blood pressure and increased placental function
Some researchers have observed that a laboring woman’s blood pressure may be lowered in warm water. This improves blood flow to all parts of the body, especially the uterus, increasing oxytocin levels. The placenta also benefits from the increased blood flow, improving the baby’s oxygen levels thus reducing risks of fetal stress.

More positive birth experience for mom and baby
When women compare their ‘land births’ to their water births, most women report a more positive birth experience. The most common reason stated is a reduction in pain and greater comfort in the water. Immediately following the birth of the baby and when not disturbed, mother and baby will typically spend several moments looking intently into each others eyes. This phenomenon has been labeled by some as ‘imprinting’.

Decreased interventions like epidural anesthesia
Water provides relaxation and reduced pain during labor and delivery and typically facilitates a quicker delivery thus reducing the use of medical interventions like epidural anesthesia amongst water laboring women.

Wonderful for the care provider too!
Water labor and birth is just not a great option for the birthing mother, it is also a wonderful experience for the care provider. Water labor and births create a more relaxing environment. The mothers are typically quieter and calmer. Water births use less supplies such as absorbent underpads. Water labor and births typically lower the need for medical interventions and positive outcomes are higher then with ‘land births’. Inflatable birth pools are very comfortable for the care provider to lean over during deliveries and clean up is quick and easy.

Read more about water birth here: Why Choose Water Birth?

 

CONCERNS

Safety – this is probably the number issue amongst those that stand on both sides of the water birth debate.  The biggest concern hands down is about the potential risk of the baby breathing underwater.

Four main factors prevent the baby from inhaling water at birth:

  • Prostaglandin E2 levels inhibit breathing response underwater
  • Babies are born with mild hypoxia which triggers apnea and swallowing
  • Water is hypotonic and the baby’s lungs are full of hypertonic fluid
  • The baby’s Dive Reflex

A large-scale study of waterbirth in the UK (1994-1996) showed a decrease in newborn death (0.12% for waterbirth vs. 0.4% for conventional birth during the same period). Non of these deaths were associated with water aspiration or inhalation.

Another question is about the risk of infection to the mother and baby.

Infection can occur from two sources. One source is germs the laboring woman might carry in or on her body and the other source is germs that might be present in the pool or water. During birth, a laboring mother will lose fluid from the bag of waters, pass urine, blood, and sometimes stool. Fluid from the bag of waters and urine are usually sterile. Blood can carry both bacteria and viruses. Stool usually carries bacteria and other types of organisms. Current research indicates that most germs cannot live very long in warm, chlorinated water. Possible infection due to water contamination is remote if you are using city water to fill your tub. Also, if there are bacteria or viruses in body products or fluids, the amounts are thinned out with exposure to a large pool of water and making the germs less able to cause infection.

Birthing pools need to be cleaned well before and after each use to make sure no bacteria is present that may lead to infection. Research does not show increased incidence of infections of the birth canal or uterus with waterbirth. Water does not enter the birth canal and travel upward.

Dehydration in the mother is another concern during a long water labor and birth. The combination of hard, physical work (labor) and immersion in a warm tub of water can lead to loss of body fluids through perspiration. Dehydration can cause an increase in the mother’s heart rare and a low-grade fever which may in turn increase the baby’s heart rate. The laboring mother is encouraged to drink 8 ounces of clear fluids every hour to prevent dehydration.

You can find more information on our Research and Publications page.

Also take a look at our FAQ for the answer to questions such as when to enter the pool and water temperature.