What is a Water Birth?

March 30, 2017

For many moms, a water birth makes the birthing experience less painful and soothing. Are you an ideal candidate for water birth?

You already know that a warm bath can soothe sore muscles and help you relax. It makes sense, then, that for many moms a water birth—when your labor, delivery or both are done in a birth tub filled with warm water—makes the birthing experience less painful and more soothing.

You may not be an ideal candidate for water birth if:

  • You are having a multiple birth
  • You have experienced complications such as preeclampsia or premature labor
  • You have existing medical conditions
  • Are considered a high-risk pregnancy
  • Your baby is premature (less than 37 weeks)
  • Your baby is in the breech position
  • Your baby has first bowel movement while still inside (meconium stained fluid)

However, if your pregnancy has been healthy and your baby is well positioned, there are many benefits of water birthing.

While epidural and intrathecal pain control methods cannot be used during a water birth, you may not miss them. Studies have shown that having all or part of your labor in water reduces pain, in part by decreasing adrenaline production, allowing for a shorter labor, and by decreasing the pressure on your abdomen, which means better blood circulation and more oxygen to both you and your baby.

The water also helps reduce the incidence and severity of tearing, and the buoyancy makes it easier for you to move and find a position that is comfortable. The more relaxed and comfortable you are, the more you will be able to focus on the process of birth as it’s happening.

Your baby benefits from water birthing, too. Since a water birth creates an environment similar to the amniotic sac, it eases the stress of birth and makes the transition feel more secure for your baby.

If you choose to have all of your labor in water, you may even be able to pull your baby up for his or her first breath yourself! Your baby receives oxygen through the umbilical cord during the first few moments while underwater, and is perfectly safe as long as the cord and placenta are functioning as they should. Your baby will take his or her first breath when his or her skin makes contact with air.

Under the supervision of a health care clinician, a water birth can be a wonderful and safe experience for mom and baby. Mercy Medical Center offers both labor and delivery in water as well as and the option to spend a portion of labor in a tub but deliver traditionally.