Water Birth: What You Need To Know

Childbirth is such a special time in your life. You’ve been carrying this baby around for months and finally you get to meet them. Welcoming a baby is always a special and wondrous time, but have you thought about how you will bring your baby into the world? I mean, we know how it'll happen. What I'm referring to is the environment and situation.

What if I told you giving birth doesn’t have to look like the screaming lady lying on her back that you so often see in the movies. Actually, that's exactly what that's for...movies. One alternative birthing option rather than lying on your back (which is a horrible position to give birth), is to give birth in water. Yes, you can not only labor in water but you can safely birth your baby in the water, as well. It creates a relaxing effect for mom and provides a similar environment for baby to be born into.

Water has been used for therapeutic purposes for centuries. Water birth was first documented in 1805 but didn’t gained popularity until the 20th century. This is when they began to study the effects of immersion in water during childbirth. Since then water birth has slowly gained popularity as a way to give birth. For instance, 802 women chose to give birth in water between 2003-2008. A majority of those women chose water birth for the pain relief and relaxation.

How Safe is Water Birth?

After all, we hear horror stories so much how can we put ourselves and our baby at risk? Well, actually it is very safe. According to studies there are no more risks associated with water birth than there are with a birth that takes place out of water. So the chances of something happening during labor are quite similar regardless of which way you choose to give birth. What does set water birth apart from other births though, are the benefits. The benefits of a water birth include:

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Improved blood circulation

  • Provides privacy

  • Increase in oxytocin

  • Prevent episiotomies

  • Shortened labor

  • Reduce the use of epidurals and spinals

Another benefit to water birth is the buoyancy provided by the water, making it easier to move around and get into different positions. This is extremely helpful during labor. Women who have had water births often describe their experiences as satisfying and fulfilling. This, in part, could be due to the autonomy and control they maintain. By giving birth in water they are in total control of their body and have a sense of self, which too often is lost during labor in hospitals. Water birth has been shown to be just as safe as a birth that takes place outside of the water. The only exception would be the risk of water aspiration by the baby, which is a very rare occurrence.

With all of that being said, there are situations that may make water birth an unsafe option. Speak with your care provider to determine if it's an option for you.

Some situations include:

  • You have genital herpes and are having an outbreak

  • Your baby is breech

  • You have severe anemia or an infection

  • You’re having multiples

  • Preterm labor

  • Severe meconium

  • You have preeclampsia

If you’re thinking about a water birth you should contact your hospital or birth center and find out if they allow it. This will let you know whether you need to change location or change your plan.

The evidence on water birth are limited. With the research conducted there are currently little to no known risks of a water birth compared to a birth out of water.


The Evidence on: Waterbirth. (2019, May 03). Retrieved from https://evidencebasedbirth.com/waterbirth/

Water Birth: Benefits and Potential Risks. (2017, September 25). Retrieved from https://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/water-birth/

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©2019 by Jessica Fibbe Birth & Breastfeeding Services.