Pros and Cons of Water Birth

By Selena Gerrish

September 11, 2013PregnancyNo comments

Water birth is a relatively new method, which is becoming more popular recently, especially among fans of natural birth with minimum intervention. It is considered as a more comfortable, easier and healthier way to give life to your baby, and also bring you less pain and more enjoyment during the whole process.

What makes water birth so attractive?

Pain reduction

Pain reduction is the main reason why women choose water birth. Due to the relaxation, which water gives them, plus the fact that water reduces the tension and fear, and the effects of weightlessness and the ability to take different positions, most women feel the contractions less painful. The effect of water birth may be particularly beneficial, when the process is accompanies by severe back pains.

Shortens the birth duration

Immersion in water helps you to relax and feel comfortable, and it also decreases levels of adrenaline and favours the release of oxytocin. That is why often after the immersion in water, the contractions become more efficient and the labour processes very quickly. Some studies have shown a significant reduction in the duration of labour when processed in water. This, of course, depends on many factors – the situation, the way the tub is used, the approach of the medical staff when a woman is ready to enter the water, etc. The observations of the experts have shown that if a woman enters the water too early (for example with about an inch of cervical dilation), childbirth may be delayed or accelerated for a while, but it may be stopped afterwards. Even after a woman enters the water with a cervical dilation of about three inches, the birth often occurs within the next 1-3 hours. This happens mainly because the immersion in water causes a sharp increase in the levels of oxytocin in the first 1-2 hours, and then its levels drop, i.e. water is a very strong, but at the same time short stimulator of labour process. That is why water birth is also called an “oxytocin wave”.

Less medical interventions

The immerse in water gives you a sense of intimacy and privacy, which helps a woman concentrate on her own feelings. This means that medical examinations and interventions are minimized, and the fetal heart tones are monitored periodically until the woman is in the water. The need of pain relief by medications also decreases.

Water birth reduces the risk of ruptures

Water softens the tissues and allows the perineum to be stretched more easily. The risk of episiotomy is also smaller during a water birth.
A gentler birth for the baby, which means a “smoother” thransition to its new living environment

Remember that your baby lived in water during the nine months of pregnancy. Often parents and even doctors notice that babies born in water seem more relaxed, less stressed and cry less.

Other advantages of water birth

Water birth usually lowers woman’s blood pressure if it is slightly increased. It also provides women with reduced mobility or spine problems with the opportunity of having an easier birth.

Apart from the purely physiological advantages that it has, water birth is an unforgettable experience not only for the mother but also for the father, which makes both parents share one of the most important moments in their life as a couple. The father is given the opportunity to trace the whole process of childbirth from the very beginning to the very end, because he stands right beside his wife in the water and is the first one who takes the baby when born.

What are the disadvantages of water birth?

Usually, water birth is absolutely safe and goes pretty smoothly, because it hides almost no risks for the mother and the baby. Of course, every rule has an exception, especially if your pregnancy has proceeded with some complications or somehow the fetus was in danger.

The most common contraindications about water birth are:

  • Water birth usually is not a good choice when it is not in cephalic presentation.
  • However, there are some midwives who helps water breech births.
  • Water birth is not a good option if there are some concerns about the health of the baby of there is a suspected fetal distress – deviations from normal heart rate or meconium in the amniotic fluid.
  • During premature births
  • If medical anaesthesia is used
  • If the mother has a fever, if there are some suspicion of infection or the blood pressure of the mother is significantly increased.
  • If the mother has a massive bleeding, or the mother has developed any infection during the pregnancy.
  • Water birth is also not recommendable in case you are expecting more than one baby.
  • Water birth is not an option if the mother is HIV positive

Of course, doctors should assess every case individually in order to make a decision of water birth is an option or not.

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