Water birth is much older than most people realize. Ancient Egyptian and Minoan carvings and temples dating back over 8,000 years depict women laboring and giving birth in pools of water. Native Americans, early Polynesian settlers of Hawaii, Japanese, Panama Indians, Maoris of New Zealand and many other ancient societies have historical stories about water birth. The first recorded water birth in modern history was in 1503 in France.
2. What are some benefits of water birth?
In 2009, The Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group published a review that considered the births of over 3,000 women and concluded benefits of water birth are:
Reduced epidural/spinal analgesia requirements
Lower cesarean rates
Increased satisfaction of their birth experience
No adverse effect on labor duration
No adverse effect on neonatal well being
3. Is waterbirth a western idea?
Waterbirth is found in over 90 countries worldwide and has ties to many indigenous cultures.
4. What is safer, a water birth or an epidural?
A study published in 2014 in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth stated “Compared with regional analgesia, water immersion during the labor is convenient, comfortable, and has no side effects. No anesthesiologist is required, and there is no risk of trauma or the complications of anesthesia. Thus, water immersion during the labor is a relatively ideal method for providing analgesia during labor.”
5. Does water birth make birth hurt more?
Water immersion during labor is associated with less pain and a lower rate of cesarean section. It also is associated with a lower rate of urinary incontinence.
6. Does water birth lower any risks?
A study published in 2000 in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive biology found that first time moms who did not have a water birth had a FIVE TIMES higher rate of episiotomy and their labors were around 90 minutes longer. This study also concluded: “we conclude that water births in low risk women delivered by experienced professionals are as safe as normal vaginal deliveries. Labouring and delivering in water is associated with a reduction in length of labour and perineal trauma for primigravidae, and a reduction in analgesia requirements for all women.”
7. I’ve been told waterbirth is dangerous. Is this true?
The American Association of Birth Centers (AABC) released a publication in 2014 that analyzed data from a sample of 15,574 obstetrically low-risk women eligible for birth center birth at the onset of labor from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2010. There were 3,998 water births in the sample. These data demonstrate that water birth, with careful selection criteria and experienced providers, does not negatively affect mothers or newborns.
8. Does waterbirth increase the risks of infection?
A Scandinavian study of 1385 women found that women who’s had broken between 24 and 72 hours before the onset of contractions that labored in water did not increase the risk of infection to mom or baby.
9. Won’t my baby drown from being born into water?
We can’t forget your baby has been in fluid for its entire existence up to this point. Your baby has developed several biological protections that inhibit it from inhaling water at birth.
First, high prostaglandins levels that rise leading up to birth and peak in the moments before your baby is born. Prostaglandins inhibit the ‘fetal breathing reflex’ and which levels high in the moments after birth stop the baby from even attempting to breathe for several moments after birth.
Secondly, a normal part of the birth process is that babies are born experiencing Hypoxia which causes them to not breathe in (apnea) and swallow instead.
Third, the fluid in a baby’s lungs during pregnancy and birth is denser hypertonic fluid and water is a thinner hypotonic fluid which means the thinner water can’t displace the fluid already in the baby’s lungs.
Lastly, babies have an ingrained reflex called the “dive reflex” which automatically closes the larynx if water touches it.
So, the short answer is no. In the presence of normalcy, babies bodies protect them from drowning in a water birth.
10. I’m a plus-sized woman. Does this disqualify me for water birth?
Absolutely not! There is no evidence that states that simply by being plus sized you should be denied your decision to labor in water. If your pregnancy and birth stays in the realm of normalcy waterbirth should realistically be an option. Sadly, many hospitals across the US have policies that ban women of higher BMIs from access to water in birth. This is frustrating due to the fact plus-sized women would benefit as much if not more from the buoyancy and pressure relieved from the body when submerged in water.
If you need medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, then you should consult with your health-care professional. If you have a medical emergency, then you should contact your doctor or seek emergency services immediately.
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