What is a Water Birth?

Water births are a type of labor method in which a woman sits in a tub or shallow pool of warm water, supervised by a midwife or doctor. Water birthing is based on the notion that warm water mimics the amniotic fluid a baby is surrounded with in the womb and eases the transition into the outer world. It is also promoted as helping the mother feel more in control of the birth instead of the doctor.

Advocates of the water birth process believe that warm water is relaxing and can increase a womanís energy levels, especially during the final stages of labor. The immersion is thought to improve blood circulation and reduce the pain from uterine contractions. Water may also relax the pelvic muscles and vaginal opening to prevent tearing or other complications.

Those who promote water births believe the water has psychological advantages as well. Being surrounded by warm water may aid a woman in mentally focusing on the birth rather than being distracted by physical pain. Sitting in a birthing pool may give a woman a feeling of privacy as opposed to lying on a raised hospital bed.
Water births begin by filling a birthing pool, such as an inflatable pool or small tub, with warm water. Ideally, the temperature of the water is heated to match the pregnant womanís body temperature. Women can choose to sit in the pool at any stage of labor except the very beginning.

If the uterine contractions have not established a regular pattern, sitting in a birthing pool may overly relax the body and potentially stop labor.
Once a womanís contractions are regular, she can sit in the birthing pool. Some physicians and midwives believe the warm water may cause cervix dilation to increase too quickly, so women may be advised to wait until the cervix is dilated 5 centimeters before immersing in the water.

Once a womanís cervix is dilated to 10 centimeters, she can usually begin pushing out the baby into the water. The healthcare provider will generally remove the baby from the water within 10 seconds of delivery. Leaving the baby under the water for longer periods of time may potentially cause oxygen deprivation if the umbilical cord isnít providing an adequate amount.
Water births are not recommended for all women. Pregnant women with infections, especially herpes, can spread the infection through the water. Water birthing can also be difficult for giving birth to multiple babies or for single babies that are positioned breech with the bottom or feet facing down. Preterm labor can also face complications in water births.