Pregnancy

Water Birth Delivery Benefits & Risks for Mother & Baby

Dr Pooja Mittal
Pregnancy

Created by Dr Pooja Mittal
Updated on Sep 12, 2019

Water Birth Delivery Benefits Risks for Mother Baby

What is water birth? Water birth is the process of giving birth in a tub of warm water. Some women choose to labor in water and then get out for delivery (immersion labor), others decide to stay in the water for the delivery as well. In water birth, the baby stays in the amniotic fluid for nine months inside the womb, so giving birth in a similar environment is gentler for the baby and less stressful for the mother. Reducing stress reduces complications.

What Are Water Birth Benefits for Mother?

Here are the benefits of water birth for newbie mother. Read this carefully.

  • Warm water is comforting and relaxing.

  • Water has buoyancy which lessens the mother’s body weight, allowing free movement and easier positioning. 

  • Buoyancy improves blood flow to the uterine muscles, leading to more efficient contractions and less pain. 

  • It reduces the production of stress-related hormones and reduces anxiety.

  • It promotes the production of natural pain-relieving substances called endorphins, hence mother may feel less pain.

  • Water makes the perineum more relaxed and elastic, thus reducing the need for an episiotomy (surgical cut given over perineum to deliver the baby). It also reduces the incidence of perineal tears.

What Are Water Birth Benefits for Your Baby?

Water provides an environment similar to that inside the uterus, so birth is gentler and eases stress.

Few Possible Risks to Mother & Baby

Here are possible risks of water birth for both mother and baby. Read carefully 

Water Embolism

According to an article by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, there may be a theoretical risk of water embolism, which occurs when water enters the mother’s bloodstream.

Water Aspiration

The British Medical Journal is 95 percent confident about the safety of water births, but they see a possible risk for water aspiration.

Normally babies don’t inhale before being exposed to air.  If the umbilical cord becomes twisted/kinked, or the baby is experiencing stress in the birth canal, then it may gasp for air too soon as the oxygen supply from the cord is compromised. Then there is a risk of inhaling water.

Snapped Cord

Cord may be torn as the baby is brought above water. The baby may lose blood from the torn cord. This complication is preventable by observing caution.

Drowning

Because of complications, the baby may remain underwater for too long and his/her lungs may fill with water.

Infection to Mother & Baby

It has been found that more bacteria are present in the birthing tubs than beds. During almost all labor, there is a bowel movement which is cleaned by the table nurse in conventional births. There is no way to make the water in the tub sterile as it gets contaminated with blood, urine, feces and body secretions as the mother sits in it. The baby can inhale/ swallow the contaminated water and become infected. 

When Is Water Birth Not Right For You?

One should have almost no risk factors for a water birth to happen. Some situations where it may not be a good choice are:

  1. Diabetic mother

  2. Preeclampsia

  3. Macrosomia ( big sized baby)

  4. Breech baby

  5. Prematurity

  6. Narrow birth passage

  7. Twins/ multiple babies

  8. Meconium passage by baby

  9. Growth restricted baby

  10. Group B Streptococcus infection in mother

  11. Low platelets or other bleeding problems in mother

  12. Mother with medical problems like heart disease, epilepsy, etc.

How to Prepare Yourself Prepare for Water Birth?

Here is some advice which will help you to prepare for water baby delivery. Read below.

  1. The couple should talk to their doctor to make sure that there are no problems complicating the pregnancy and waterbirth is safe for them.

  2. Choose a hospital/birthing facility that offers a water-birth option and has trained staff/doctors for this.

  3. Understand the risks and reality of waterbirth. Even with a perfect setup, complications may happen. Discuss with your doctor.

  4. Be flexible with the birth plan

  5. Be prepared to handle emergencies.

  6. Know Your Choices – Choosing waterbirth is a very personal decision requiring a lot of thought. It can provide a natural gentle experience, those who desire natural childbirth (no medications) may consider it.

 

Is Water-birth Painless?

Different women perceive pain differently. So it depends on individual perception and preference. Compared to a Conventional birth, waterbirth seems to be more relaxing but may not necessarily be less painful. Moreover, an epidural (which is a popular pain relief method in conventional births) cannot be given with waterbirth.  It provides a way to manage natural childbirth. It offers a less stressful experience which may alleviate much pain in some women. [Read More - What is Epidurals, Benefits and Risk Factors?]

 

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| Sep 16, 2019

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