Water birth: The Risks & Benefits

Published on 8 July 2024 at 23:10
Black and white picture of a pregnant Woman standing on the beach in front of the ocean. Possibly contemplating water birth for her baby. Water birth, home birth, birth center available in Logan and Cache Valley Utah. Give birth naturally.

The Benefits of Water Birth

  • Many women will report that getting into a tub of warm water when contractions are getting intense helps to relax them and decreases the pain they feel.
  • Being in the water helps take away some of the pressure on the mothers' body and increases the buoyancy around her helping to relax and find good positions to aid in fetal descent.
  • Water birth helps decrease the chances of tearing, perineal trauma or the need for an episiotomy by softening the perineal tissues and promoting relaxation
  • Because water birth promotes relaxation, this increases the release of oxytocin (the body's own natural pitocin). This in turn helps labor to progress and you get to hold your baby sooner:)

The Risks of Water Birth

  • Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (MAS). If the baby passes meconium (first black poop) before or during delivery, then the baby has a chance of inhaling the meconium because passing meconium is usually a sign that baby is stressed out and isn't getting enough oxygen. This increases the chance of them taking a breath sooner, and if there is meconium in the water, they could breathe in the meconium creating MAS which can cause breathing problems. Health care providers look for signs of distress and the possibility of meconium being present.
  • Drowning: The chance of your baby breathing in water is very low. Baby's have what's called the "dive reflex" which causes them to draw in their first breath when their body is exposed to air or a cooler temperature. This is why babies don't try to take a breath when born under water. This is also why it is important for the baby to be born in warm water between 98-102 degrees F.
Laboring woman about to give birth at home in her birth pool assisted by a midwife in Cache Valley, Logan, Utah

ACOG's Guidelines for Water Birth

  • Low risk pregnancies that give birth between at term (37-42 weeks)
  • Discourage water birth for breech babies
  • Discourage water birth for those with herpes or have  a lot of bleeding during labor

What Setting Up for a Water Birth Looks Like At Home Or at a Birth Center

If giving birth at home:

Your midwife will probably do a home visit with you around 36-37 weeks. If you request a water birth and she is lending you one, then she will bring it then. They are usually blow up pools that you can set up beforehand. There is usually a new liner that comes with it that is just disposed of after the birth. You will want to put the liner in when you begin labor. That is the time when you should start filling with hot water. Cool water can always be added more easily later. When your contractions are getting more intense and you feel like you need extra help, that is the time to get into the birth pool. It should help relieve your intense contractions. If you get in early, it is possible to slow down labor or stall it. So wait until you are just about at transition (6-7 cm) before getting in. I know, its tempting!


If at a birth center:

Your birth team should have the tub already for you when your contractions start getting more intense. They will constantly monitor the temperature of the water to make sure it is warm enough and not too hot for the baby. This is especially important if there is a long labor and the water cools throughout that time.


Your care provider will monitor and look for any signs of distress and or meconium and will help to safely deliver your baby in the water so that you may have a successful water birth in Cache Valley!

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