Are you expecting a baby and wondering about the best way to bring your little one into the world? Water birth has gained popularity in recent years as an alternative birthing method. But is it the right choice for you and your baby? In this article on PregnancyBoss, we’ll explore the pros and cons of water birth to help you make an informed decision.
Related: The Benefits of Hypnobirthing
What is Water Birth?
Water birth is the process of laboring and/or giving birth in a tub of warm water. It can take place in a hospital, birthing center, or at home and ideally under the care of a doctor or midwife.
What are the pros and cons of Water Birth?
Pros of Water Birth
- Eases contraction pain: Being immersed in warm water during labor and birth can make it easier for you to manage the discomfort of your contractions as they get longer, more frequent, and more intense.
- Relaxing and comforting: Feeling the warmth of the water all around your lower body can relax and comfort you, helping you to release tension and go with the flow of your contractions without getting panicky or stressed by the sensations.
- Buoyancy: The buoyancy of water helps take weight off the front of your body. Your baby bump can feel so heavy when you’re laboring and birthing on dry land but being immersed in water helps your body and belly to feel lighter.
- Comfortable positions: It’s very easy to move about in water and get into positions that feel really comfortable for you.
- Private space: When you’re in a bath or birth pool in labor, you have space to yourself so no-one will get in and invade your space unless, for example, you want your partner to be in the water with you.
- Calm babies: Babies who are birthed in water are usually very calm and this could be because they leave their mother’s warm bodies and go directly into another warm place: the warm water of a birth pool.
- Positive experience: The majority of women who give birth in water say that their experiences were very positive and empowering. The births have usually been very smooth and straightforward and these women say that they’re likely to opt for a water birth again in the future if they decide to have more children.
Cons of Water Birth
- Availability: It’s easier to guarantee a water birth if you choose to give birth at home because you can buy or borrow an inflatable birth pool and you know it’s solely for your own usage. If you’re giving birth away from home, in a hospital or birth center, there’ll only be a certain number of birth pools available and when you arrive there all of the pools may be taken by other women.
- Pain relief: Whilst warm water can definitely ease contraction pain and discomfort, sometimes it’s not enough and this can depend on your pain tolerance levels. Some women may ask for chemical pain relief such as an epidural or an injection of diamorphine. If this is the case, you’ll have to exit the pool to get the injections and you’ll probably have to give birth on dry land for safety and monitoring purposes.
- High-risk pregnancy: If you’re classified as a high-risk pregnancy, meaning you/your baby have a health concern, water birth may not be an option for you as you may need to be attached to a monitoring system during labor.
- Unexpected circumstances: If any unexpected circumstances arise while you’re in a birth pool (perhaps your baby becomes distressed, you experience some bleeding or your blood pressure goes up) you may not get the chance to give birth in water.
What is the recommended gestational age for Water Birth?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), laboring in water should be offered to women who are between 37 weeks to 41 weeks, 6 days gestation. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines state that all healthy women and babies between 37 and 42 weeks of gestation should be offered the opportunity to labor in water. Therefore, the recommended gestational age for water birth is between 37 and 42 weeks of gestation. However, it’s important to note that you need to have a normal, low-risk pregnancy to be approved for a water birth.
What are the steps involved in a Water Birth?
Here are the steps involved in a water birth:
- Check with your healthcare provider: First, check with your healthcare provider to see if they are equipped for a water birth with a special tub or birthing pool.
- Prepare for a water birth: If your healthcare provider approves of a water birth, you can prepare for it by packing a bag with towels, a change of clothes, and any other items you may need.
- Get into the water: Once you’re in labor, you can get into the water when you feel ready. You can choose to labor in the water and get out for delivery, or you can stay in the water for the delivery as well.
- Manage your contractions: Immersion in water during the first stage of labor can help you manage the discomfort of contractions as they get longer, more frequent, and more intense.
- Relax and stay comfortable: The warmth of the water can relax and comfort you, helping you to release tension and go with the flow of your contractions without getting panicky or stressed by the sensations.
- Give birth: When it’s time to give birth, you can choose to stay in the water or get out. If you choose to give birth in the water, your healthcare provider will guide you through the process.
- Monitor the baby: Your healthcare provider will monitor the baby’s heart rate throughout the process to ensure that everything is going smoothly.
What are the requirements for a Water Birth?
Here are the requirements for a water birth:
- Approval from healthcare provider: Before considering a water birth, you need to check with your healthcare provider to see if they are equipped for a water birth with a special tub or birthing pool.
- Normal, low-risk pregnancy: To be approved for a water birth, you need to have a normal, low-risk pregnancy. This means you have not had a C-section, you are carrying one baby, you are at least 37 weeks pregnant when you go into labor, and you have no sign of high blood pressure or gestational diabetes.
- Approval from healthcare provider for high-risk pregnancies: If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you need to discuss the risks and benefits of water birth with your healthcare provider to determine if it’s the right option for you.
- Approval from healthcare provider for certain medical conditions: If you have certain medical conditions, such as herpes, breech presentation, or excessive bleeding, you need to discuss the risks and benefits of water birth with your healthcare provider to determine if it’s the right option for you.
- Availability of water birth option: Water birth may not be available at all hospitals or birthing centers, so you need to check with your healthcare provider to see if it’s an option for you.
What equipment is needed for a Water Birth?
Here is a list of equipment that may be needed for a water birth:
- Birthing pool: A pool designed specifically for water birth is needed. It can be inflatable or a hard-sided pool.
- Pool liner: A liner is used to keep the pool clean and hygienic.
- Strainer: A strainer is used to remove any debris from the water.
- Floating thermometer: A thermometer is used to monitor the temperature of the water.
- Reverse pump: A pump is used to empty the pool after the birth.
- Hose for filling the pool: A hose is used to fill the pool with warm water.
- Hose adapter: An adapter is needed to connect the hose to the faucet.
- Hose for emptying the pool: A hose is used to empty the pool after the birth.
- Hot water, buckets, and hoses: These are needed to fill the pool with warm water.
- Plastic sheeting and towels: These are used to protect the floor and to dry off after the birth.
- Fans, flannels, water spray, and ice: These are used to help keep the birthing parent cool during labor.
- Floating thermometers, debris removal nets, air and water pumps: These are additional water birth supplies that can be used.
Where can I purchase or rent a birthing pool for a Water Birth?
If you’re interested in having a water birth, here are some places where you can purchase or rent a birthing pool:
- Mother & Baby: Mother & Baby offers a range of birthing pools that are available to buy or hire. You can also rent a home birth pool from a company or borrow the pool from someone in your local area.
- Everything Birth: Everything Birth provides water birth accessories and birth pools. They have aquadoula liners and are getting Birth Pool in a Box and La Bassine.
- Wild Birth Services: Wild Birth Services provides birth pool kits to individuals and local midwives so clients don’t have to purchase a brand new pool. Birth pool rental includes porch delivery.
- Harbour City Doulas: Harbour City Doulas offers birth pool rentals that include everything you need for your water birth. Their pool rental kits make planning, set up, and clean up of your water birth easy and straightforward.
- Blissful Birth Doula Services: Blissful Birth Doula Services currently has one AquaDoula and one La Bassine Professional birth pool available to rent. Birth tub rentals are available to both clients and non-clients.
- Cascade Health Care: Cascade Health Care offers a selection of essential water birth supplies, including floating thermometers, debris removal nets, air and water pumps, and home birth pools.
What are the recommended cleaning procedures for a rented birthing pool?
Here are the recommended cleaning procedures for a rented birthing pool:
- Empty the pool: After use, all water and debris should be removed from inside the pool.
- Remove the liner: Renters agree to remove and discard the liner.
- Clean the pool: Clean the birth pool with a cloth and detergent. Use a non-abrasive detergent with a non-abrasive sponge or cloth to thoroughly clean the pool. Ensure the tap is cleaned first, so as not to contaminate the pool.
- Disinfect the pool: Disinfect the pool using a sterilizing solution such as Milton or Dettol. Wipe the solution all over the pool to avoid bacteria.
- Dry the pool: Dry the pool with a towel or air dry. It is important that no blood remains on the pool, since this can permanently stain the pool.
In conclusion, there are numerous pros and cons of water birth. It’s important to check with your maternity care provider to see if you meet their list of criteria for a water birth. Usually, women with no health issues, who have had a straightforward pregnancy and grow their babies to full term are fine to have water births. Do communicate with your care team and ask questions about water birth and, if you don’t meet all of their list of criteria, see if there’s any extra safety measures that they can put into place to make a water birth possible for you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is water birth?
Water birth involves immersing yourself in water during labor and delivery. It can be done at home, in a birth center, or in a hospital.
What are the benefits of water birth for the mother?
Water birth can provide many benefits for the mother, including decreased pain and complications during delivery, thanks to the relaxing and soothing effects of warm water. It can also lead to shorter labors, less use of pain medication, less use of artificial oxytocin, a higher rate of normal vaginal birth, a higher rate of intact perineum, less use of episiotomy, and greater satisfaction with the birth experience overall.
What are the benefits of water birth for the baby?
While water birth seems to benefit the birthing parent’s comfort more than the baby’s, babies who are birthed in water are usually very calm. This could be because they leave their mother’s warm bodies and go directly into another warm place: the warm water of a birth pool.
What are the potential risks of water birth?
There are some potential risks associated with water birth, such as the possibility of infection, difficulty monitoring the baby’s heart rate, and the need to exit the pool for medical interventions such as an epidural or an injection of diamorphine.
Can you have a water birth in a hospital?
Yes, some modern hospital-based birth centers offer water birth as one of several labor and delivery options. However, it’s important to have conversations with your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks of water birth during your pregnancy so you’re prepared when it’s time to deliver your baby.