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Pros & Cons Of Water Birth And Frequently Asked Questions

We live in a world with numerous options and never-ending choices and this extends to the topic of pregnancy and delivery as well. From natural birth to a scheduled induction and unplanned Caesarean, the list of types of birth is broad.

Medical innovations have made childbirth a safe experience over the past century for both mother and baby, such as promoting the childbirth-friendly environment, state-of-the-art delivery rooms and so on. Out of the number of delivery options, today, we will discuss one of the most recent trends or means of delivery, water birth.

What Is Water Birth?

Well to be exact, water birth is not a new or recent trend but a practice that has been followed since the early ages. It is an ancient method for reducing delivery pain. There are many instances in history where babies were delivered in water. But with scientists and researchers talking up the need to understanding the scientific theories behind it, water birth is indeed mainstream now [1] [2] .

Pregnant women around the world are now choosing water birth, due to the acclaimed benefits of lesser pain and the ease and comfort it offers.

Water birth is carried out with the pregnant woman being submerged in water, in a tub (stationary or inflatable). The woman can labour in the water and deliver out of the water. Water birth is no longer an 'alternative' method of delivery but the primary option chosen by thousands of women around the world [3] .

Let's get to know more about water births.

Pros Of Water Birth

Over the last decade, water birth has become increasingly popular.

1. Labour pain management

Water birth involves the woman to be submerged in water, which can help in easing the contractions. It is one of the major reasons that attributes towards the rising demand for this specific delivery procedure [4] . The procedure involves submersion in warm water and other complimenting activities like massages, aromatherapy etc.

2. Shorter labour

The water helps in relaxing your muscles, thereby help save your energy for focusing on the contractions. This is said to help reduce long hours of labour [5] .

3. Help normalise breathing

Labour pains are almost always associated with anxiety attacks. The mother anticipates the pain before feeling it, which results in causing panic. In some cases, it could prevent the mother from breathing normally. Warm water and aromatherapy help the woman relax and normalise her breathing, which is necessary for normal contractions.

4. Enhanced sense of privacy

One of the best benefits of water is the privacy it offers. It is pointed out that, when you are in the pool, you are in your world and may feel much more in control.

5. Relaxes your mind and body

The relaxing effect of water will help you be at ease, therefore, allowing you to keep the contractions in rhythm so that they are less stressful for you and your baby [6] .

6. Less traumatic for the baby

Some suggest that water births are less traumatic to the baby, in comparison to other types of delivery. The warm water creates a medium similar to the amniotic fluid inside the uterus.

Cons Of Water Birth

Now that you are aware of the benefits water birth can have on the mother and the child, let's go over the possible risks and complications of water birth.

1. Infection

There may be a risk of infection in a birthing pool. It can be from the birthing pool itself, the outlet or inlet pipes, or if your bowels open in the pool. However, more studies have to be conducted on this matter [7] .

2. Uncomfortable process

Despite the benefits, the process offers, water birth can be an uncomfortable process because there are chances that you may accidentally open your bowels as the baby is delivered. But remember that all these are part of the process and there is nothing to be uncomfortable about.

3. Emergency situations

In case of an emergency or uncertain event, it can become difficult to move the pregnant woman from the pool [8] .

Some of the risks involved in the process are that the baby may start to breathe underwater, the perineum is more likely to tear if a woman gives birth in water and the umbilical cord may snap during the delivery [9] .

FAQs On Water Birth

Q. When is water birth not a good option?

A. You are considered not fit to undergo water birth [10] , if

  • you suffer from a medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or chronic mental illness,
  • you have epilepsy,
  • you previously had a Caesarean section,
  • your baby has not been growing well during pregnancy,
  • you had any bleeding in the last weeks of pregnancy,
  • you have active (weeping) herpes sores near your vagina,
  • you have high blood pressure, and
  • your labour was induced.

Q. Are there situations where I may not be able to give birth in the pool?

A. You will almost certainly not be able to give birth in the pool if [11]

  • your baby is in a breech position,
  • you are having twins or more,
  • your baby is premature and
  • the second stage of labour (the pushing stage) becomes very long.

Q. What about blood loss during the delivery?

A. It is very difficult to assess how much blood the mother is losing when she is in a pool of water. It is also very difficult to keep changing the water frequently. So if the mother is having more than normal blood loss it is better to change course [12] .

Q. What if the baby swallows the water?

A. This is a big risk. If the baby starts crying as soon as its head is out then there is a chance that it might swallow some water. The water will contain the mother's blood or maybe other waste that comes out when the water breaks. This might lead to infections.

Q. Are water births safe with multiples?

If you are carrying twins or higher-order multiples, you will not be considered a candidate for water birth as pregnancies of this nature have a higher risk of premature birth and other issues.

Q. Do water births hurt less?

A. There is no definitive answer because each labour is unique and every woman tolerates pain differently.

Q. Is water birth better than normal birth?

A. There is no specific answer to this because, as aforementioned, each labour is unique and every woman tolerates pain differently. One advantage of water birth is that it can help you relax and help you feel more in control. Floating in water helps you move around more easily than in bed as well [13] .

Q. Can a baby drown in water birth?

A. A baby doesn't drown during a water birth because the baby is already in the water in the womb.

Q. Are babies born in water calmer?

A. One of the benefits of water birth is that babies born underwater are often calmer than babies born in the air, and may not cry or move vigorously [14] .

Q. What should I wear in a birthing pool?

A. Whenever you get out of the pool, you should be quickly wrapped in large, warm towels, or a towelling dressing gown, but it is practical to be naked or to wear a bikini top [15] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Cluett, E. R., Burns, E., & Cuthbert, A. (2018). Immersion in water during labour and birth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (5).
  2. [2] Chapman, V., & Charles, C. (Eds.). (2018). The midwife's labour and birth handbook. John Wiley & Sons.
  3. [3] Lathrop, A., Bonsack, C. F., & Haas, D. M. (2018). Women's experiences with water birth: A matched groups prospective study. Birth, 45(4), 416-423.
  4. [4] Garland, D. (2017). Revisiting Waterbirth. Macmillan International Higher Education.
  5. [5] Taylor, H., Kleine, I., Bewley, S., Loucaides, E., & Sutcliffe, A. (2016). Neonatal outcomes of waterbirth: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Archives of Disease in Childhood-Fetal and Neonatal Edition, 101(4), F357-F365.
  6. [6] Gonçalves, M., Coutinho, E., Pareira, V., Nelas, P., Chaves, C., & Duarte, J. (2018, October). Woman’s Satisfaction with her water birth experience. In World Conference on Qualitative Research (pp. 255-265). Springer, Cham.
  7. [7] Brooks, E. J. (2018). Water Birth: Using Water as a Comfort Measure in Labor. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 33(1).
  8. [8] Bartlett, J. (2017). Water Birth in the Hospital Setting. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 32(2).
  9. [9] Troiano, G., Lo Nostro, A., Talini, M., Gestri, D., Calonico, C., Nante, N., ... & Niccolini, F. (2018). Water birthing and infectious risks: an Italian study. European Journal of Public Health, 28(suppl_4), cky218-131.
  10. [10] Taylor, H., Kleine, I., Bewley, S., Loucaides, E., & Sutcliffe, A. (2016). Neonatal outcomes of waterbirth: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Archives of Disease in Childhood-Fetal and Neonatal Edition, 101(4), F357-F365.
  11. [11] Fritschel, E., Sanyal, K., Threadgill, H., & Cervantes, D. (2015). Fatal legionellosis after water birth, Texas, USA, 2014. Emerging infectious diseases, 21(1), 130.
  12. [12] Cooper, M., Warland, J., & McCutcheon, H. (2019). Practitioner accreditation for the practice of water immersion during labour and birth: Results from a mixed methods study. Women and Birth, 32(3), 255-262.
  13. [13] Sidebottom, A. C., Vacquier, M., Simon, K., Fontaine, P., Dahlgren‐Roemmich, D., Hyer, B., ... & Saul, L. (2019). Who Gives Birth in the Water? A Retrospective Cohort Study of Intended versus Completed Waterbirths. Journal of midwifery & women's health.
  14. [14] Lee, N., Jomeen, J., Mårtensson, L. B., Emery, V., & Kildea, S. (2019). Knowledge and use of sterile water injections amongst midwives in the United Kingdom: A cross-sectional study. Midwifery, 68, 9-14.
  15. [15] De Benedictis, S., Johnson, C., Roberts, J., & Spiby, H. (2019). Quantitative insights into televised birth: a content analysis of One Born Every Minute. Critical studies in media communication, 36(1), 1-17.

Read more about: pregnancy prenatal postnatal
Story first published: Tuesday, September 24, 2019, 19:00 [IST]
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