Pregnancy Home > What's Involved With a Water Birth?

Considering a water birth? If so, it's good to be completely informed about what's involved, the pros and cons, and how to prepare. This type of birth is not recommended in several situations, such as if the baby is breech or the mother has preeclampsia or is carrying more than one child. As with any birthing scenario, make sure you are working with a knowledgeable caregiver.

What Is a Water Birth?

Some women may consider a water birth as an alternative method for bringing their babies into the world. Although this method is gaining popularity with some women, there isn't enough evidence to show that it's safe. So what's involved with a water birth and what risks are associated with it?
Just as it sounds, a water birth is the process of a woman giving birth in water. However, it may be harmful for some women and their newborns. The problem is similar to a home birth situation -- you don't know whether a water birth is safe for you and your baby until after the baby is born and there haven't been any complications.
While using warm water can help soothe the pains of labor, some women choose to experience all three stages of labor in water. This can be done in a bathtub, hot tub (at an appropriate temperature that's not too hot), or a birthing tub. Some birthing tubs can be rented.
The water should not be higher than 100°F, as high temperatures are dangerous for the baby. High water temperatures can lead to high body temperatures for the mother, which can lead to changes in blood pressure and less oxygen and nutrients to the baby.
In most cases, a hospital-planned birth will involve the traditional bed delivery. However, some hospitals and birthing centers have equipment for water births.
If you choose to have a water birth at a hospital, policies are in place to monitor your baby using special underwater equipment. You can also receive intravenous (IV) fluids and medications while in the birthing tub. If you have a water birth at a freestanding birth center or at home, you may have heartbeat monitoring or none at all.
Not all healthcare providers will perform a water birth. If you are considering a water birth, you should talk to your healthcare provider about your options and the risks. It's important that a water birth be attended to by someone who is trained and qualified for this particular method of delivery. This can include an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN), a family physician, a certified nurse midwife, or certain other qualified midwives.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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