Water Birth: Benefits and Risks You Need to Know
A water birth can take place in a Hospital, Birthing center or at home, with the help of a doctor, midwife or nurse.
It is a natural often drug free way to give birth and the warm water acts like a natural pain relief.
What is a Water Birth?
A water birth is simply a birth that is performed in water. A woman can choose to labor in the water and then get out for the birth or she can labor and give birth in the water.
Typically the water is at a temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit no hotter. Hot water will dehydrate and cause you to over heat fast. This could result in complications during birth.
It is not recommended to get in to the water until you are 5-6m dilated. Getting in sooner can slow down or even stop labor.
What are the benefits of a water birth?
There are so many reasons why a water birth is the perfect choose for you and your baby.
- A water birth can help to speed up labor
- It is gentle on both the mother and baby
- Reduces the needs for drugs
- Water is calming
- Buoyancy reduces pressure on the body
- Less pain for mother
- The warm water causes the perineum to be more relaxed and elastic, which results in less tearing
- Less stress and anxiety
- Eases the birth for baby
- Relaxes the pelvic floor
- Less strenuous labor (helps to conserve energy)
- Helps to reduce blood pressure
- Relaxes muscles
A water birth is not ideal if any of the below apply to you. In most cases your medical adviser will have already told you should a water birth not be right for you.
- Prone to excessive bleeding or have a maternal infection
- Having a multiple birth
- You have herpes as they can be easily transferred in water
- Have a breech baby
- Baby is stressed
- Have complications
- Premature birth
- Older than 35 years old
- Younger than 17 years old
- You have had an epidural
- If baby has had his first bowel movement while still inside your belly
Whilst a water birth sounds like the ideal way to give birth, it will not suit everyone. For some they will simply not have the choice due to illness or complications.
- Healthy pregnancy with no complications
- Healthy mother
- Baby is healthy and at full term
- Baby is ready and waiting in the normal position
- Mother is aged between 17 and 35 years old
- You want a drug free birth
- Looking for natural pain relief
Risks associated with a water birth
Like all births there are always some element of risk involved. It is important to access your risks carefully to determine if you are a good candidate for a water birth and always consult with your health care provider first.
- Mother and baby can be at risk of contracting infections
- The umbilical cord could snap before baby comes out of the water
- Baby could breath in bath water
- Home Births (higher risk)
How to prepare
Prepare for a water birth in just the same way you would a normal birth.
Write a birth plan and pack your hospital bags.
Time the trip should you be traveling to a birthing center or hospital and make all participants aware of their roles for the day.
- Read up on water birth and speak to other women who have had them
- Check with your medical provider to see if they provide the service
- Purchase a birthing pool if necessary (most hospitals and birthing centers will have them)
- Keep a supply of fresh drinking water handy to help prevent dehydration
- Clean wash clothes
- Bikini top or other cove ups, should you decide to wear anything in the bath
- Soft warm towels
- Calming music
- Soft lighting (candles)
- Invite those you wish to attend
I had a water birth with my first child 12 years ago. I have since had a second child and that birth was much more complicated hence a water birth was not recommended.
The first birth was a lovely spiritual experience. I needed no drugs and the birth was relatively fast for a first child.
The warm water soothed my body and I felt little external pressures on my pelvic floor due to the buoyancy of the water.
I loved my water birth and would recommend it to anyone who is an ideal candidate.