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The Pros and Cons of Water Birth

A water birth is just what it sounds like:  It's when a mother-to-be gives birth in a tub full of warm water.  There are a couple of ways this is done.  Some moms go through the labor in the water, but get out when it's time for the delivery. Others choose to stay in the water throughout the whole process.  The whole idea to water birth is that, since the baby has spent months inside the amniotic sac, it will be gentler to the child for him / her to be birthed into an environment like the one he knows. 

And because it's gentler for the baby, it's said that the birth will not be as stressful for the mom.  More and more obstetricians, as well as a number of midwives and birthing centers, feel that decreasing the amount of labor-related stress, helps to reduce fetal complications.  If you'd like to consider a water birth, you should of course consult your physician ahead of time.

Pros of Water Birth

  • For the mom, being in the water is quite relaxing and soothing.
  • The water is also invigorating, giving the mother energy when she most needs it.
  • The water allows the mother to float somewhat, making it easier to shift positions.
  • Also, the buoyancy allows better circulation of the blood and better contractions of the uterus, making the whole process less painful, and providing a better oxygen flow for the child.
  • The anxiety of childbirth will sometimes increase a woman's blood pressure, but the water tends to lower it.
  • The act of physically relaxing helps the mother also relax mentally.  This enables her to direct her energies toward the delivery process.
  • Some women feel the water gives them more privacy, thus relieving some of her anxiety.
  • For the baby, he will be more familiar with the water environment than an air environment.
  • As a result, the baby will feel more security and assurance.

Cons of Water Birth

Unfortunately, little research has been done concerning water-birth risks.  However, a few studies suggest some possible risks. These include:

  • There might be a risk of the water entering the woman's blood stream.
  • Although extremely unlikely, there is a remote chance that the baby might experience stress within the birth canal, and gasp for air. But if he's in water, he would inhale water into his lungs.  Again, this is unlikely, since a baby almost never inhales until exposed to air.
  • There is also a slight chance of the umbilical cord snapping when the baby is pulled to the water's surface. However, this can be avoided simply by being cautious when lifting the child to the mom's chest.

There are a few situations in which a water birth is probably not a good idea. For instance, since Herpes can be easily transferred in water, mothers with the virus should not take part in a water birth unless your doctor approves it first. 

Also, you should not consider a water birth if you've been diagnosed with maternal infection or excessive bleeding.  If the baby will be born premature, most doctors would not recommend water birth.  Finally, discuss with a doctor the water-birth option if you're having twins or other multiples, or if you have preeclampsia or toxemia. 

If you've decided that a water birth is right for you, here are the steps to take to prepare for it:

  • First, talk with your doctor about it.  It may be that they are already equipped for this, or at least, he might know where to send you for it.
  • If you want to have your baby at a hospital, you must check first to see if they allow water births.
  • Check in the Yellow Pages or on the Internet for some place to rent you a birthing tub.  The rental fee is usually around $350.
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