Warm water eases labor contractions, soothing body and soul. But is water birth safe? What are the water birth risks? In San Diego, California this home birth midwife has helped over 400 babies, mothers and families have water births and discusses the benefits risks and beauty of midwife supported water birth at home.
People are sometimes be surprised: Water Birth?! Is that safe? What are the water birth risks??! Can babies breathe when they’re born under the water?
First: Water used FOR LABOR decreases the sensations of labor. The easy re-alignment of body and soul as your body floats and gently glides more weightlessly caresses you as you enter the warm and comforting water. There’s the gentle ease of being surrounded by our most essential physical element: water. And there’s the way our bodies let go and relax when we bathe.
So laboring in the water has been show to reduce the pain of contractions by as much as GETTING AN EPIDURAL. In fact, people talk about it being an AQUA-DURAL. (As effective as MORPHINE in relieving the pain of labor!)
In one study: "The 1st stage of labor (1st stage means all labor up to when you start pushing) was shorter in waterbirths compared with vaginal delivery with epidural analgesia but the 2nd and 3rd stage of labor (2nd stage means pushing and 3rd stage is delivery of the placenta) were shortest in patients having waterbirth compared with conventional vaginal delivery and vaginal delivery with epidural analgesia. So- water birth is SHORTER. Because our HORMONES work much better when we are RELAXED. (hint: orgasm)
In 1983, Odent published the results of the first hundred water births in The Lancet (1). It was postulated that anxiety and pain may trigger a stress response during labour (2) leading to reduced uterine activity and dystocia (3). Labouring in water may overcome this stress response by aiding relaxation and relief of pain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3940223/
But are water births SAFE??
Within her website, Evidence Based Birth, Rebecca Dekker details all the risks that have been studied for newborns having a water birth. And guess what??
1 - Do Babies Die because of Water Birth? They found no statistical difference in the odds of newborn death between waterbirth and land birth
2- Apgar Scores: no difference between waterbirth and land birth groups in Apgar scores < 7 at five minutes
3- Do Babies have Difficulty Breathing? The odds of breathing difficulty were less for babies born underwater.
4- NICU (intensive care for newborns): The odds of NICU admission were less after waterbirth
5- Newborn infections : no difference between waterbirth and land birth
6- GBS: infants who were born in the water were less frequently colonized with GBS than those born on land.
7- Gut Flora: no major differences in bacterial flora between three newborn groups studied: water birth, land birth with pool use prior to birth, and land birth with no pool use
8- Newborn Resuscitation (CPR): researchers did not find a difference in this outcome between waterbirth and land birth groups
9 - Newborn Hypothermia - results favored waterbirth, showing a decrease in the odds of hypothermia
That's not all!! I SOOO encourage you to go check out Evidence Based Birth - which is the only comprehensive compendium of it's kind that I know of - turning complex decisions for parents into research-based decision making tools. They give you all the research and ask you to make your own choices. Very empowering.
Be sure to share this with your pregnant friends and remember:
Be the girl (or the family) who decided to go for it!