Water Birth

A water birth is where a woman spends some of her labour, and or the birth of her baby in a birthing pool filled with warm water. The warm water is said to naturally relieve the pain of labour without the risks associated with epidurals, pethidine, or other more conventional forms of pain relief.

The environment of the birthing pool has been likened to the environment of the uterus so it reduces the trauma of being born for infant, and the water can possibly support the perineum, reducing the risk of tearing and episiotomy.

What are the benefits and Risks of a Water Birth?

Whilst a water birth offers some benefits, there are also some risks. The risk of infection from the water or the pool should be considered, although a hospital-based water birth would reduce this risk because of the rigorous hygiene standards that hospitals are required to follow.

A water birth can slow down a labour, so to mitigate this risk many hospitals will only allow a woman to start the water birthing process once she is in established labour and her cervix has dilated as far as five cm. It is also difficult to monitor maternal blood loss during labour so many hospitals require the mother to deliver the placenta outside the birthing pool. There is also a small risk that the umbilical cord can snap if the baby is brought to the surface too quickly. This is a rare occurrence and is not life-threatening.

Is it Possible to have a Water Birth at Home?

It is possible to have a water birth at home, as birthing pools are available for hire and relatively easy to set up. As with any home birth, you will need to ensure you have appropriately qualified professionals to assist you with your birth. The should also follow rigorous hygiene procedures around the pool to reduce the risk of infection or complications.

Benefits of a Hospital Water Birth

One of the benefits to a hospital water birth is that you have the option of other technology if you need it, and if there is an emergency staff are able to respond quickly without transporting you to hospital.

To find out exactly what water birth entails, it may be beneficial to watch a documentary on water births and seek as much information as possible. Your midwife or care provider should be able to answer your questions, as they will have full knowledge of you and your baby’s history.

water birth

For a list of organisations and birthing facilities that provide water birth facilities, click here.

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