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August 5, 2019 | Health Advice

What Exactly is a Water Birth and What Are the Benefits?

It can be overwhelming to consider all your birthing options. Being inundated with endless suggestions and birth stories may leave you wondering what will be the best path for you and your little one. Perhaps you’ve thought about a water birth as this is a novel birthing option that more and more women are choosing. What exactly is a water birth, and is it for everyone?

An Introduction to Water Birth

The first known water birth occurred in France in 1805. It wasn’t until the 1970s that this method gained popularity as doctors and midwives looked for ways to ease a babies transition from in utero to the world outside, explains BabyCentre. The theory is that after your baby has been floating in amniotic fluid for nine months, warm water is a more natural, and less stressful way into the world.

There is a difference between laboring in water and giving birth in water. Some women, due to preferences or contraindications, decide to labor in water and then move to dry land for the actual birthing process. Others continue to give birth while still submerged in water.

How Will My Baby Breathe Underwater and Other Concerns

Parents magazine addresses some of the most common questions about water birth, such as, how will my baby breathe upon emerging from the birth canal into a pool of water? Since baby will still be receiving oxygen from the placenta via the umbilical cord, their lungs will not yet be moving air and there is little risk of baby breathing in water immediately entering the world. The baby will be quickly lifted out of the water, and then their impulse will switch, pushing them to breathe on their own.

What about water temperature? Won’t mother get overheated and isn’t it bad for a woman to soak in hot water while pregnant? While a hot tub it is not recommended at greater than 100 degrees while expecting, birthing tubs are closely monitored to keep the temperature at no greater than 98 degrees. Higher temperatures can result in overheating of the mother and fetal distress.

How Water Birth Benefits Mom

The American Pregnancy Association highlights some of these benefits to the mother laboring in water.

  • Pain Relief – One of the primary reasons that women choose water births is for all-natural pain relief without medication. The warm water increases circulation and results in more effective contractions and may possibly decrease the duration of labor.
  • Ease of Movement – Being nearly weightless and buoyant facilitates easier repositioning, meaning you can easily get into a more comfortable position as needed.
  • Less Perineal Tearing – Relaxation of the perineum results in decreased tearing and minimizes the need for an episiotomy.
  • Improved Relaxation – While being submerged in warm water, there is an increased feeling of calm, blood pressure decreases and endorphins are released promoting a therapeutic environment.

Where Can I Have a Water Birth?

Water births should only be performed under certain conditions and with tubs specific for that purpose. Birthing centers and hospitals will have tubs that are sterile and regularly tested to ensure no bacteria are present, minimizing the risk of infection. If you opt for a home birth, there are inflatable tubs with a disposable liner specially designed for this purpose, and that can be rented.

To be well informed of what your laboring and birthing options are for your unique situation, your physician can help you plan for this exciting time in your life. Hudson Physicians offers women’s health care that is personalized at every stage. If you are an expecting mom or planning a family, check out the comprehensive care options provided by our professional and compassionate health care team.

Calm your pre-birth jitters by scheduling a birthing center tour so you know what to expect and can walk through the whole delivery process. Ask any additional questions you have about water birth options offered at Hudson Physicians.