It has been said that water is the midwife’s epidural. That is because when someone in labor is submerged in a tub of water, they can sometimes feel a great decrease in the discomfort they are feeling. This is only one of the many benefits of water birth.
What is a water birth?
A water birth is when a baby is born under water. This usually occurs as a result of the mother already laboring in water and pushing the baby out while remaining in the water. Many might have a hard time wrapping their minds around the idea of the baby coming out underwater, but it is important to remember that the baby has lived inside a bag of water for 9 months. As long as the baby hasn’t taken their first breath yet, it is perfectly fine for the baby to be born underwater.
What are the benefits of water birth?
A water birth can be very beneficial to both mom and baby for the following reasons:
- Water birth can reduce discomfort from contractions, as mentioned previously
- It can reduce the risk of tearing
- It can decrease labor duration
- It can allow the laboring person’s body to rest more successfully between contractions
- It can provide or a more gentle transition out for the womb for the baby
What precautions should be taken for a safe water birth?
While water birth is considered a safe option for those with low-risk pregnancies, there are precautions to be taken in order to ensure an extra level of safety. Those precautions include:
- Making sure the water is kept right at or close to 99 degrees, since that is the normal temperature of a person and what the baby is used to. Once the baby is born, it is important to make sure the the baby is not too cold or too warm.
- Being aware of the cord length when bringing baby out of the water and up to the mother’s chest, so as not to damage the cord.
- Making sure the baby has not taken their first breath before entering the water. Situations in which this would be a concern would be if the water is shallow and the mother is squatting right above or only slightly in the water.
- Baby should be brought out of the water face down, when possible, to allow for fluid to drain from the nose and mouth.
- Delivering the placenta out of the water, when possible, so that blood loss can be better gauged.
Where do water births take place?
Many hospitals here in the U.S. do not allow complete water birth, but they will allow patients to labor in the water. They will require that the patient gets out of the water prior to pushing in order to have the baby be born on “dry land”. Many of the benefits of water birth can still be achieved through this practice, but those who would like to birth their baby in the water may need to seek out a freestanding birth center or choose to have their baby at home.