What's Involved With a Water Birth?

Are Water Births Safe?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) state that underwater births should be considered an "experimental" procedure. The ACOG and AAP recommend that this birth method should only be performed within an appropriately designed, randomized controlled trial after informed parental consent.
Because birthing pools/tubs are considered "medical devices," they are subject to regulation under the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA is currently collecting information, data, and research on the risks and benefits to mothers and newborns.
There hasn't been adequate research done to determine the safety of water births. Of the studies that have been done, the results are mixed. Some studies have shown rare but serious risks for the baby, while other studies have shown that water births can be as safe as bed births.
Only women who have a healthy pregnancy and have a low risk for complications should consider a water birth. There are certain situations where a water birth would be considered high risk. Some of these situations include:
  • A breech position (the baby's bottom or feet are facing down right before birth)
  • The baby has passed the first bowel movement (meconium) while still in the womb
  • The mother has preeclampsia, toxemia, or certain other health conditions that would increase her risk for birth complications
  • The mother has an untreated blood or skin infection
  • The mother has an infection or excessive bleeding from a wound
  • The mother is in preterm labor
  • The mother has excessive vaginal bleeding
  • Maternal fever is greater than 100.4°F (or if there is a suspected infection)
  • The mother has herpes, which can easily be passed to the baby in water
  • The mother is carrying more than one baby.
Some of the recommended criteria that women should meet before attempting a water birth include those who have:
  • An uncomplicated pregnancy of at least 37 weeks gestation
  • Reassuring fetal heart tones
  • The absence of bleeding greater than bloody show
  • Established a labor pattern of good, regular contractions
  • Spontaneous labor or ongoing labor after misoprostol or Pitocin®.
Pregnancy and Pain

Pregnancy Info

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