Considering a water birth? 5 important things you should know first

Registered midwife Pippa Hime answers some common questions about the safety of a water birth.

As an expectant parent, you may spend a great deal of time researching the birthing process and how you are going to deliver your baby. One of the options that may come up is a water birth. But exactly is it, and how safe is it for a mom and her baby?

What is a water birth?

A water birth is where a mom experiences her labour and delivers her baby in water. This is usually in a specific bath that is a permanent fixture in a birthing unit or, in the case of a home birth, specially erected. The water is warm, with coarse rock salt added to it.

ALSO SEE: The facts about home births

What are the benefits of a water birth?

  • The warm water helps ease some of the discomfort of labour for the mother.
  • It allows the mother to experience weightlessness in the water, so she can get into comfortable positions during the labour.
  • It’s believed to create a calm environment in which the baby is born.

Can my baby drown during a water birth?

If delivered correctly, your baby will go from one fluid environment in-utero to another. Your baby is still attached to the umbilical cord and so is still receiving oxygen. He also has something known as a dive reflex, which means he will swallow any water he encounters rather than inhale it. Your baby will only take his first breath once he has been taken out of the water and exposed to temperature change.

ALSO SEE: 5 water birth myths busted

Do I stay in the water for the entire duration of the labour process?

  • You can leave the birthing bath if you find that you need pain control such as an epidural.
  • You don’t have to stay inside the bath if you feel unhappy or uncomfortable.
  • You may have to get out of the birthing bath if there are complications with the baby or the delivery.

ALSO SEE: Best labour positions for pain control

Can I give birth in my tub at home?

Water births should be done under the care of a trained medical professional who is experienced in such a method of delivery. Both the mother and the baby need to be monitored closely. If there any signs of a problem, then the birth will need to be managed differently. Most importantly, you need to listen to the medical professional advising you on your birthing options and what is best for both you and your baby.

 

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