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Water Birth Technique: How It's Done and the Pros and Cons

Water Birth Technique: How It's Done and the Pros and Cons

With all of the information available online, there are too many childbirth options you can consider. One of the most “ancient” delivery techniques is water birth. The water birth technique is a common form of hydrotherapy used to keep the child and mother in the least amount of artificial medicine, which promises less effect on either.

This birth technique is a process wherein the mother is submerged in water, mostly breast down, and the baby is delivered underwater. However, there are different stages of labor, which depending on your health condition, can also mean that the baby will be delivered outside the water tub used for the purpose.

While experts have varying thoughts on this delivery process, here we will dissect everything that you should know about the water birth technique. It is also important to consult your gynecologist before opting for a water birth delivery.

Pros of Water Birth Technique

  1. As water has therapeutic qualities, this birth technique soothes the mother’s body. The first stage of labor means pain, contractions, and cervix dilating. Water accelerates this process more than epidurals and routine IVs, which might hinder it otherwise. Secondly, once the cervix is finally open for delivery, the mother needs to push the baby out through the birth canal. Water helps this stage by decreasing pain usually felt by the mother in medicated vaginal delivery.
  2. There are lower cases of vaginal infection during the water birth technique. This is possible as only the gynecologist and a midwife or doula are involved in the process
  3. Waterbirth also makes the body more free than when the mother is delivering on a bed. Buoyancy plays a huge role in this.
  4. Being submerged in water also increases blood circulation in the body. This means that the mother will receive better oxygenation in the uterine muscles, where it is most required. This will lead to lesser pain and the baby will be delivered more easily than in other delivery techniques.
  5. There is a reason why swimming relaxes your nerves. Hydrotherapy can also help eliminate the stress hormones produced due to anxiety and fatigue while the mother is in labor.

Cons of Water Birth Technique

  1. One major concern amongst experts for water birth is damage to the umbilical cord during delivery. This can mean the cord twists or remains in the water for longer than usual. As the cord provides oxygen to the baby, this can get hampered.
  2. There are chances of the baby inhaling the birth water, which may contain Epsom or normal salt.
  3. Infections are also an issue with the water birth technique. This can be both for the mother and the child. Skin infection is the most common one.
  4. Regulating the baby’s body temperature can be a major problem and requires extra attention from those helping the mother.
  5. The mother might get more fever than usual.
  6. There can be a constant need to trace fetal heartbeat, which might be difficult underwater.
  7. There is an increased danger of water aspiration, when the mother is in labor and breathes in water by mistake.

Things to Consider

  1. The water birth technique is a procedure that requires a thorough understanding of how the delivery takes place, whether the mother’s body is up for it or how the baby will be affected, before and after the delivery.
  2. Age plays a big factor in opting for this delivery process. If you’re older than 35, then water birth technique might not be for you. Consult your gynecologist before making a decision.
  3. Even though there are studies and examples of twin births during this technique, mothers are highly recommended to make an informed decision if carrying more than one child. Since delivery is followed by heavy bleeding, the same can pose a problem while submerged in water.
  4. There is a time frame within which one can consider this delivery procedure. This means if you’re in labor after completing 39 weeks and before 41 weeks, then you are more suitable for the water birth technique. However, if it is pre-term labor or extremely late labor, then the process is not for you.
  5. If the baby is breeching, then the water birth technique is not considered a good option. The baby should be in the bottom first or feet first position.
  6. If you’re diabetic or have a precondition that leads to blood clots, then water birth delivery is not recommended for you as you will need to be constantly monitored.
  7. If you’re having a big baby, then a C-section may be required.

How to Prepare?

The water birth technique should be done under the guidance of an experienced doctor.

  1. Warm regulated water would be required. This should be between 97 to 100 Fahrenheit (34-37 degree Celsius).
  2. There is an increased number of birthing centers now and many hospitals also provide the same service. But if you want to do this at home, then you should consider buying a tub rather than renting one to sterilize it efficiently and avoid existing bacteria. Only work with an experienced midwife and doctor.
  3. Drinking enough water is important for the mother. Dehydration due to warm water is common and can hamper your delivery.
  4. You will need a gynecologist and a midwife or a doula. The best part about the water birth technique is that you get to choose how many people can be in the room.
  5. Do keep in mind to get a healthcare professional that is experienced in water birth technique and deliveries, as the issues that arise in this one are way different from other birthing techniques.
  6. Constant monitoring of the baby and the mother needs to be ensured.
  7. Mucus and stools are common during childbirth. Keep yourself prepared with a garden or swimming pool net, so that the helper can clear your tub as soon as the situation arises.
  8. There is a specific time when you need to be in the water to process labor. If you’re in the tub before time, this can slow down labor and hence be extremely uncomfortable.
  9. Some regular types of equipment that you would require are floating thermometers, water cleaning bleaches, extra towels, and relaxing salts (do read their chemical composition).

water birth technique

Important Points to Remember

While the water birth technique might cost less than other delivery options, it requires greater patience as there is almost no medication involved. The mother’s pain threshold and existing medical condition play the deciding factor here.

There are various studies on the water birth technique. If you really wish to opt for it, then talk to qualified health professionals who have done such deliveries as well as the midwives or doulas involved. This will give you a better perspective on whether you are ready for it or not.

Learn more about Labor and Delivery here.


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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated Jun 17, 2021
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel