Water birth is the process of giving birth in a tub of warm water. Some choose to labor in the water and get out for delivery. Others decide to stay in the water for the delivery as well. The theory behind water birth is that since the baby has already been in the amniotic fluid sac for nine months, birthing in a similar environment is gentler for the baby and less stressful. Midwives, birthing centers, and a growing number of obstetricians believe that reducing the stress of labor and delivery will reduce fetal complications.
What are the potential benefits?
- Warm water is soothing, comforting, relaxing.
- In the later stages of labor, the water has been shown to increase energy.
- The effect of buoyancy lessens body weight, allowing free movement and new positioning.
- Buoyancy promotes more efficient uterine contractions and improved blood circulation resulting in better oxygenation of the uterine muscles, less pain, and more oxygen for the baby.
- Immersion in water often helps lower high blood pressure caused by anxiety.
- The water seems to reduce stress-related hormones, allowing the body to produce endorphins which serve as pain-inhibitors.
- Water causes the perineum to become more elastic and relaxed, reducing the incidence and severity of tearing and the need for an episiotomy and stitches.
- As the body relaxes physically, the mind also relaxes with a greater ability to focus on the birth process.
- Since the water provides a greater sense of privacy, it can reduce inhibitions, anxiety, and fears.
And for the baby?
- Provides an environment similar to the amniotic sac.
- Eases the stress of birth, thus increasing reassurance and sense of security.
Are there risks?
- Nothing is without risk, but there is little evidence of any risk for a water birth, unless there is an underlying medical condition.
- If you have high blood pressure, herpes, or are delivering twins most providers would recommend you not deliver your baby in the water.
- Additionally, if you develop bleeding, or the baby is showing any signs of distress you should get out of the water for further evaluation.