Do you know someone who has given birth in water? Odds are if you don’t, you will in the near future. Water births have become increasingly popular over the past two decades. Although more warmly embraced in the homebirth and birthing center communities, an increasing number of hospitals are beginning to offer water births as an option along with certified OBs to assist women.
The Basics of Water Births
Water births take place in a portable “bath”: think of a toddler splashing pool, just adult-sized. Some birthing centers and hospitals may have a permanent water-birthing pool, but inflatable pools are much more common. Water is typically heated to around 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and should be consistently monitored to ensure it doesn’t increase in temperature beyond 101 degrees. Because of the warm environment, laboring mothers should have plenty of water to drink and even a mister on-hand to provide some cooling relief.
Risks of Water Births
The main risk of water births stems from an improperly cleaned bath. Although unlikely, there have been reported cases of infection transmitted by poorly sanitized water baths.
Advantages of Water Births
Supporters of water birth believe that birthing in warm water provides many benefits to both the mother and baby. “Waterbirths: A Comparative Study” found that only 12.8% of women who gave birth in the water needed an episiotomy, compared to the 27.7% who used a Maia-birthing stool and 35.4% who gave birth on a bed. Consequently, women who gave birth on a bed also had the worst lacerations. This study also found that mothers lost less blood when delivering in the water and requested fewer painkillers. For a thorough list of water birth research, click here. When prepared properly and guided by an experienced professional, water births are extremely safe. Let’s take a look at some of the facts surrounding water births.
- Water creates buoyancy, which allows reduces stress the body feels throughout labor
- Warm water can reduce blood pressure
- Warm water may reduce the intensity of contractions
- Warm water has an analgesic effect—it enhances feelings of relaxation
- Reduces the likelihood of episiotomies and/or perineal damage
- Provides a gentler entrance into the world for your little one
Many insurance companies will not cover water births, although some do cover rental equipment if you plan to give birth at home. If you’re considering a water birth, call your insurance company to see what your policy covers, just so you have all the facts available!
According to Waterbirth International, a laboring woman should wait to enter a birthing pool until she is at least 5 centimeters dilated and has established a regular contraction pattern. Entering pool too early may slow or stall labor as the body becomes too relaxed; however, every woman’s body is different and an experienced professional should be able to guide a woman at the proper time to begin a water birth. If you’re curious about others’ personal stories, head on over to Waterbirthinfo.com, where they have over 50 stories and counting!