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Water Birth – Benefits And Risks

4 min read

If you have been anywhere near any of the social media sites lately, you would have seen water birth videos being shared countless number of times.Have you wondered if it is an option that you should explore?Then,here is everything you wanted to know about water birth, along with its benefits and risks.
Woman giving birth in water

What Is Water Birth?

Water birth refers to the act of spending either part or all of your labor and delivery in a pool of water. A woman about to have a water birth would sit in a pool filled with warm water during her labor and delivery. This is usually done at home as it is not yet quite popular in India, but in western countries many birthing centers and hospitals also provide the option of water births. The popularity of water births arises from the fact that the baby has been in amniotic fluid for nine months and birthing in a similar environment feels gentler for the baby. Water births are also believed to be less stressful for mothers. This has led many experts in the field to believe that water births can help prevent many fetal complications, explaining the rise in popularity. In any scenario, an obstetrician, a midwife and/or a doctor need to supervise the delivery.

What Are The Benefits Of Water Birth?

The advocates for water births claim that there are plenty of benefits for choosing water birth. Some of these benefits are:

  • Labor is supposed to be much easier in a water birth. The warm water is known to have a relaxing effect on the woman’s body. It is also known to lower the blood pressure
  • Labor will also be speedy in a water birth. When you are relaxed and breathing calmly, your contractions are known to progress more strongly without disruptions, thus leading to a speedy delivery
  • Labor is also less painful. When you are in a pool of warm water, your body produces more of oxytocin hormone and less of stress inducing adrenaline hormone. Your body also will produce more endorphins. Both oxytocin and endorphins will make it easier for you to cope up with the contractions
  • Delivery is also known to be easier in water than in air. You have the support of water around you that helps in delivery. You also have the sides of the pool to get a grip on while pushing
  • Although studies around this are inconclusive, some suggest that water birth can lower the risk of vaginal tearing and improve blood circulation to the uterus
  • The expecting mother can move around more freely in the pool as the buoyancy reduces the body weight
  • Although there are no medical benefits for the baby, water birth has an added advantage that your baby comes out to an environment he is used to inside the womb (amniotic sac) and so the birthing process becomes easier for the baby

Water birth

What Are The Risks Associated With Water Birth?

Water birth is something that has gained popularity in the last three decades. Owing to this, there is limited research done on the risks associated with water births. Some of the risk factors you need to consider are:

  • If something goes wrong, it is easier and quicker to get medical attention (e.g. an emergency C-section) if you are out of water
  • If you and the baby are experiencing birth trauma, then the baby might gasp, thus inhaling the water
  • If you have any infectious disease (like Herpes), then water birth can easily pass the infection to your child as well
  • There have been cases of umbilical cord snapping in water births before the delivery is complete
  • You might not be able to get yourself connected to a fetal heart monitor if you are in water. This might result in you missing to notice your child is in trauma
  • If your baby is in breech position, you should discuss the risk thoroughly with your doctor
  • Complications like diabetes and pre-eclampsia could prevent you from having a water birth, so you need to discuss the same with your doctor
Water birth – Is It For You?

This completely depends on what you and your partner want. Since water births are not hugely popular in India, you might have to convince your parents and relatives that you are indeed taking the right step. It also depends on where you are giving birth. Since hospitals in India do not usually provide this option, home is your best bet. You need to assess how soon you can get to a hospital in case of an emergency.
In any case, you should NOT go for water birth in the following cases:

  • If you are too young (less than 17 years) or too old (more than 35 years)
  • If your baby is in breech position
  • If you are carrying multiple babies
  • If you have a high risk pregnancy (gestational diabetes, preeclampsia)
  • If you are having a premature labor
  • If your baby is 3.5 kgs or above

Have a detailed discussion with your doctor before you make a decision. Good luck!

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