Is water birthing right for you?
There are plenty of childbirth options you can choose from when the big day comes. Here at A Family Affair Birth Center, we want to help you explore your options. And water birth is one that has many benefits. But before we review those benefits, it must be said that Water Birth, like all options, needs to be seen as just that. An option. Not a plan.
Labor is an an ever-changing, dynamic process, one that needs to be surrendered to, not so well orchestrated that it creates it's own sense of stress and expectations, and possible disappointments. We can create the visions of what we want now, but once in labor, your body may need something completely different. You need the freedom to get out of your head, and flow with what your body is telling you. It's a unique process, a dance you will be doing with your baby, culminating in holding your new baby in your arms. And all of this is possible because of surrendering to the process, and utilizing your "options" when needed.
For some, the idea of a water birth sounds intimidating, but once you understand what it’s like, you may wonder why you hadn’t considered it sooner.
What is a water birth?
Water birth is the process of laboring, and yes, possibly even delivering your baby in a deep soaking tub or a special birthing tub or mini pool filled with warm water.
Whether you intend to have a home birth deliver, or a birth center birth, your midwife can guide you through the process. It is important to note that the use of warm water, aka .hydrotherapy, can be used during labor, either continually or periodically, and the actual birth may occur outside of the tub. While some women love to birth in the water, others feel the need to be out of the water, in a more grounded way. There is no one simple plan for using water in labor, since labor is a very fluid process. Yes, pun intended!
How does a water birth work?
Once you reach the second part of labor, you can either move out or stay in the water pool. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is minimal data on the safety or practicality of staying in the birthing pool past the first stage of labor.
Why should I consider water birth?
Water birth has many benefits for labor. But as in all things birth related, there are potential risks, and safety protocols must be followed. But many families see these risks as quite minimal, and believe the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Benefits of a water birth
As listed in Evidence Based Birth, by Dr. Rebecca Dekker, the potential benefits of water birth include:
- Less pain and higher satisfaction with the birth experience
- Less medication use for pain relief—this may be important for people who want or need to avoid epidurals or narcotic medications during labor
- Less use of artificial oxytocin and possibly shorter labors
- Higher rates of normal vaginal birth
- Lower rates of episiotomy
- Higher rates of intact perineum, especially in high-episiotomy settings
- Possibly lower rates of severe tears (3rd or 4th degree), especially in high-episiotomy settings
- Possibly lower rates of postpartum hemorrhage
For a deep dive, please visit Evidence Based Birth online, and take the time to do your own research and exploration the benefits versus risks for yourself. We highly recommend this site on all matters related to pregnancy and birth, as a great source of current research presented in an unbiased manner.
Potential risks of a water birth
It is important to note that these risks are quite low, especially in low-risk pregnancies.
- There may be a higher rate of mild labial tears from water birth in low-episiotomy environments such as homes and birth centers
- Umbilical cord snap (avulsion) is a rare but possible occurrence in all birth settings
- Water aspiration is possible, so we do not allow baby remaining underwater after birth.
- Water temperature must be monitored throughout labor/birth as this can affect baby's body temperature.
- Although large research studies have not shown any increase in the risk of infection, there have been several case reports of infections after water births. This risk can be lowered by using pools that are easy to disinfect, filling tubs closer to the time of the birth, and regularly testing hospital water supply, hoses, and birthing pools.
Note: At A Family Affair Birth Center, we only utilize one time use hoses, and thoroughly disinfect our birth tubs before and after each use. This ensures a systematic double cleaning and sanitizing process between each use. We do not have jets in our tubs, as research has show the tubing in a jetted tubs is a great place to harbor bacteria, and inadvertently put mom and baby at risk.
What else to expect in a water birth
As you go through water birth, there are a few different things you should plan to expect.
You’ll feel more relaxed
The process of labor can be very overwhelming. With a water birth, engulfing your body in warm water can be quite relaxing. It can also ease the pain of contractions and dilation, making the overall process of labor go by more smoothly.
Ask your midwife
Water birth is safe, but only when done correctly. Do not attempt a water birth without a midwife or other medical professional.
If you feel your water has broken or may be leaking, consult your midwife before engaging in any sort of water immersion.
Planning for your w birth
As with any birth method, you will want to prepare ahead of time should you choose to go for a water birth.
Where to have a water birth?
Most hospitals and birthing centers will allow an option to give birth in water if they have birthing tubs available. If you are doing an at-home delivery, you can also make arrangements to allow a water birth.
What will a water birth cost?
In most cases, a water birth should cost the same amount as a traditional birth. However, if you’re planning to do an at-home delivery, you may have to spend a bit extra money to buy or rents a water birth tub, if needed.
What to wear during a water birth?
Wearing something comfortable is what matters most. Some women wear a bra, tank top, or tee shirt. Bring an extra bra or shirt to have handy once you are ready to dry off.
Safety and sanitation
To ensure the best possible outcome, you will want to ensure that the water temperature stays between 97 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
A trained professional, such as a midwife or an OB/GYN, should oversee a water birth, as they can maintain the cleanliness of the tub throughout the process.
When is a water birth not recommended?
In some cases, water birth is not a viable option. If any of the following factors apply, you may need to opt for a different method of birth. The majority of the factors below may also make you ineligible for an out of hospital birth.
- If you are expecting twins or other multiples.
- You have insulin dependent gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or other concerning conditions.
- Your baby is either premature or very large.
- If you currently have any kind of infection or illness.
- Your baby is in breech position (baby is positioned bottom or feet first).
- You have had serious complications during this pregnancy.
While we do a lot of water labors and births at A Family Affair Birth Center, safety is always our primary concern.
Are you interested in a water birth in San Diego?
It's time to explore your options! Call us for a tour, or fill out this Contact Us form and we will get you scheduled right away.. If you’re planning to do a -home birth, we can help help you through the process, as well. If a water birth is the right choice for you and your baby, A Family Affair Birth Center can help ensure the whole process goes smoothly. We provide a team of dedicated midwives who are experienced in the water birth process and and will be with you every step of the way.
Frequently asked questions
Whether it’s your first or fourth child, there is no evidence to suggest that water birth has more risks than traditional childbirth.