What is a Water Birth?

In a water birth, a woman gives birth to her baby in a bathtub or basin filled with warm water. Many people find it a natural and safe (PDF) means of escape from pain during labor. In the United States, some hospitals do offer this as a birthing option to expectant mothers. This method of giving birth emerged as a feasible alternative in the 1980s, especially for proponents of natural water birth. Organizations such as Waterbirth International promote this birthing option across the world and provide all essential water birth information.

History of Water Births

In the history of water births, the first such recorded event took place in a French village in the year 1805. The incident has been outlined in a French medical journal and according to this version, the woman had sought relief in the bath tub after laboring for a long time. Within a short time of her getting into the tub, she delivered the child. But many cultures have practiced water births for centuries. Russian researcher Igor Tjarkovsky is believed to be the pioneer of this method in modern times. In the United States, water births have taken place from the 1980s though it has still not gained immense popularity.

Water Birth Process

Birthing tubs are available for sale and rent. They are usually big enough for the mother and at least one other person to sit in comfortably. Watching a water birth video can help one understand the process to some extent. The bath tub must first be filled with water having a temperature between 95 degrees and 100 degrees. It should also be clean and hygienic enough to drink. A hose may be needed to refill the tub periodically to ensure that the water does not get too cold. Practicing beforehand can help the process go smoothly when it’s time for the home water birth. If there are plans to film a personal water birth video, preparations for this must also be made in advance.

Water Birth Benefits

A lot of the available water birth information extols the virtues of the process. Warm water is known to reduce labor pain and relax the body. It helps reduce the mother’s blood pressure and can thus, do away with the need for epidurals and the like. Studies have indicated that women going through slow labor benefit by opting for a natural water birth. One study has also indicated that babies born in this manner have higher Apgar scores. Buoyancy is helpful in bringing about better uterine contractions and increased blood circulation which is beneficial to both mother and the child. Being born in water is also thought to give the baby a sense of security since the environment would be like that in the amniotic sac. Water birth risks are also significantly lower than those in regular births.

Risks and Concerns of Water Births

Water births are not advised when the baby is in breech position, in the event of multiples, if the baby is premature, and when the mother has some kind of infection (PDF). The possibility of water aspiration by the infant at birth is one of the risks associated with a water birth. The possibility of the umbilical cord snapping during this type of birth has been found to be more prevalent than in other births. There are many myths (PDF) which are prevalent about this type of birth. Detractors of the process contend that the implication that water birth risks are lower is wrong because the number of such births occurring is also vastly lower than the number of hospital births. Lack of adequate and accurate water birth information is also a reason why people adopt a cautious approach in this matter.

Public Acceptance of Water Births

More and more people are starting to accept that water births might indeed be a natural birthing option (PDF). This is primarily because the soothing power of warm water in helping relax tense muscles cannot be disputed. Yet another factor that appeals to a lot of people is the calm and quiet of a home water birth as compared to the noise and lights of a hospital room or ward. The greater number of birthing positions available to the mother in a natural water birth also lend to the appeal of the process. The number of people making a water birth video is also on the rise as apprehensions about the process decrease.

Water birthing is increasingly gaining popularity and acceptance across the world. However, there is a dearth of accurate studies on the pros and cons of this method of labor and delivery. The debate on safety of such births versus water birth risks is a never-ending one. Since there is lack of substantial evidence to either promote or discourage water births, the decision to opt for a home water birth lies solely with the mother and her views and feelings about the matter.