When you are pregnant, it’s only natural to think ahead to the day that you finally go into labor. One aspect of labor that is bound to cross your mind is pain; more importantly, ways to reduce the pain. There is little doubt that you will hear of various methods to deal with labor pain. Depending upon where you plan to deliver your baby, you may have different options available to you.
One option that you may hear about is a water birth, where a woman gives birth to her baby while submerged in a tub of warm water. Water births have taken place for decades. In the early 1980s, a French obstetrician published a research paper on his experiences with water births, focusing on the benefits of pain relief.
Not everyone agrees on the benefits
While there are many hospitals and birthing centers around the world that give women the option of laboring in warm water, there are different views regarding a woman giving birth while submerged in water due to the risks associated with this practice. Due to concerns regarding safety for a mother and her baby, the opinion of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) on water births is that they are experimental and should only be permitted during experimental trials.1 The American College of Nurse Midwives and the American Association of Birth Centers, however, consider water births to be a safe practice.2
Many hospitals and birthing centers have tubs that women can relax in during the first stage of labor, but they do not permit a mother to remain in the water during her second stage of labor when she is pushing. The main issue regarding water births is the fact that there have not been enough studies performed that weigh the risks and benefits of this practice. There is a risk of a baby drowning. There is also the risk of infection due to the presence of bacteria in the water, as well as the possibility of a delay in providing treatment to a mother, or baby, in case of an emergency.
Whatever option you choose, make sure to discuss it with your doctor or midwife first. He or she will be able to help you make the right decision for you and your baby.
1ACOG Committee Opinion no. 594. (2014): Immersion in water during labor and delivery.
Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 123(4), 912-915. Retrieved from https://www.
2Sempsrott, J., Schmidt, A., Hawkins, S., & Cushings, T. (2017). Drowning and Submersion
Injuries. Auerbach’s wilderness medicine (7th ed.). Philadelphia PA: Elseiver