While water births have become increasingly popular, it is important to be aware of the risks.
Much has changed about childbirth over the years. Today’s expectant parents understand more about the process. Rather than simply relying on traditional advice given by doctors and insurance systems, many seek out alternative options and more natural methods for labor and delivery. Opting for a midwife rather than an obstetrician is part of this trend, as are water births. Before deciding if this might be right for you, it is important to be aware of the potential risks relating to the odds of birth injuries.
The Benefits of Water Births
There is no doubt that immersion in a tub, bath, or pool can have positive effects on the body and on certain medical conditions. Physical rehabilitation facilities often use baths and pools both to relieve stress and to support bones and muscle systems during exercises designed to aid in recovery. For expectant mothers, the idea of giving birth or spending at least part of your labor in a tub or bath makes sense. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) advises that benefits include:
- Helps the mother relax;
- Increases the mother’s energy;
- Aids in regulating her blood pressure and flow;
- Eases the pain of contractions;
- Reduces the likelihood of tearing during the birthing process;
- Provides a soothing effect by mimicking the sensation of floating in the amniotic sac.
As expectant parents have increasingly turned to midwives, birthing centers, and home birth options over the past 30 years, the demand for water births has increased, too. However, the APA warns that at this time, little scientific research has been done to confirm the potential benefits or the risks.
The Risks of Water Birth
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology advises that while there is little research into water births, immersion during the first stage of labor may help shorten delivery times. It can also help eliminate the need for epidurals or other types of pain relief among women with full term, uncomplicated pregnancies. At the same time, there are some serious concerns:
- Risk of infection: Sanitation issues pertain both to the tub or bath as well as the water being used;
- Temperature: Overly warm water can have dangerous impacts on both the mother and the infant’s body temperature;
- Difficulty tracking fetal heart rate: Not being able to track the infant’s heart rate can allow dangerous conditions to go unnoticed;
- Respiratory issues: If the infant inhales droplets of water, it can result in infection, accidental drownings, and general respiratory issues;
- Birth injuries: Delivering under water can make the infant harder to grasp, increasing the risk of birth injuries.
Protecting Yourself and Your Child
It is important to weigh all the risk factors before undergoing a water birth. Even among healthy, full-term pregnancies, complications can occur. When these impact the health of you or your baby, speak with an experienced birth injury attorney.