Water can be wonderful in labor! For some, it is a game changer. Mothers tend to love laboring and giving birth in water. Many women labor and give birth in water; some women choose to only labor or only give birth in water. There are many benefits of water in labor and birth for women: higher rates of vaginal birth, less anxiety, better fetal positioning in the pelvis, less use of drugs to speed up labor, reduced need for pain relief in active labor, less risk of severe tearing or episiotomy, less blood loss, and women are more satisfied with their privacy, their ability to move around and especially with their births overall.
In terms of babies, the most up to date and comprehensive evidence shows water birth to be safe. Babies born in water have similar health outcomes compared to babies born on land. Babies born in water do not have more respiratory problems or infections, do not get cold or need resuscitating more often and do not have lower Apgar scores or require more admissions to NICUs. For a comprehensive look at all the current research on water birth take a peek at Evidence-Based Birth’s excellent new resource here.
One of the potential risks of water birth is that it could change the first bacteria that grow in the newborn’s intestine, leading to changes in the early development of the gut microbiome. This is thought to occur after Cesarean and has been linked to disorders of the immune system and obesity in childhood. Research has yet to answer the question of the effects of water birth on the normal, healthy bacteria to first colonize the newborn microbiome.
I have supported many mothers giving birth in water and am delighted to support you laboring and/or giving birth in water if that is your wish, and can either provide or help you find a tub.