Few things are as relaxing as a nice warm bath, which is one of the reasons that water births may be of increasing interest to you. Anything that can reduce the stress of birth can help reduce birth complications. What are the specific benefits of water birth, and how can it be done safely?

The Basics

Evidence Based Birth does a great job at distinguishing some key terms/phrases when it comes to waterbirth: 

“During water immersion in labor, a person gets into a tub or pool of warm water during the first stage of labor, before the baby is born. In a waterbirth, a person remains in the water during the pushing phase and actual birth of the baby (Nutter et al. 2014a). The term land birth is often used in waterbirth research to refer to a birth in which the baby is born on dry land—not in a tub. Also, the word hydrotherapy is sometimes used to describe the use of water during labor and/or birth.”

Benefits of Water

Laboring and birthing in a water bath can be more relaxing. The soothing water can reduce stress hormones and lower blood pressure and anxiety. The increased buoyancy can help make more positions possible and movement easier. Tearing of the perineum and the need for episiotomy may be reduced as well. It is speculated that water birth might be less stressful for the baby as well, due to the similarity of the bath water to the amniotic fluid.

You might choose to labor and birth in water, while others might just labor in the tub and leave to actually give birth. Laboring in water is generally considered safe and non-controversial; the only roadblock you’re likely to come up against is if your birth team is recommending continuous monitoring. If you have a saline/hep locks or IV port, ask if it can be wrapped in plastic for protection against the water. 

Potential Risks

Waterbirth is a bit more controversial but has not been very well studied. The studies that have been done show individuals who choose water birth use less pain medication, less artificial oxytocin (pitocin), and are more likely to have vaginal births and be more satisfied with their experience. Newborns seemed to fare as well in water births as in land births. There are some potential risks to the baby such as water aspiration and infection from bacteria in the water; however, under the watchful guidance of a medical professional, these risks are low. In general, for low-risk pregnancies, laboring in water and water birth is likely to be safe and may provide several benefits.

The Fayetteville, NC area does not have many options for hydrotherapy, let alone water birth. If you’re interested in adding hydrotherapy or water birth to your birth plan give us a call and let’s discuss your options, including providers who support your preferences!

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