“Babies born into water experienced fewer negative outcomes than babies born on land.“
Waterbirth safety is highest when:
- both you and your baby have no medical complications
- your midwife or doctor has water immersion training;
- the model of care you have chosen supports your choice to use water in labour and birth;
- your facility is prepared for waterbirth emergencies.
If the use of a birthing pool during your labour and birth is important to you, please find out what your options are in your area.
Researchers with the Midwives Alliance of North America Statistics Project found that;
“Waterbirth confers no additional risk to neonates; however, waterbirth may be associated with increased risk of genital tract trauma for women”
This study investigated waterbirth safety and the outcomes of 18397 births, finding that waterbirth babies experienced:
- less than half the rate of hospital transfers,
- 25% lower admissions to hospital in the first six weeks, and
- 40% fewer NICU admissions than land born babies.
For women, waterbirth (compared to non-waterbirth) resulted in less postpartum transfers and hospitalisations in the first six weeks after their birth; however, increased odds of genital tract trauma. Waterbirth was not related to maternal infection (1).However, these findings apply only to well women with no pregnancy complications. If you (or your baby) have pre-existing conditions that may complicate your labour and birth, please speak to your health care provider about the risks and benefits of this option for you.
Some hard and fast rules need to be understood if you intend on birthing your baby into the water.
- You must keep your bottom under the water.
Once baby’s head starts to come, you must keep your bottom entirely under the water until your baby is born, or we ask you to do otherwise.
- If we ask you to move or get out, it is because there is a reason for it.
There are a few things which may make listening to your midwife an actual matter of life or death. If we ask you to move or to get out of the bath, it’s because there is a safety concern.
- We need to listen to the baby’s heartbeat.
While midwives are mindful of interrupting the birthing space as little as possible, we are also required to monitor your baby (so long as you have consented to this). The need to do this increases during the second stage. With your permission, we will request access to your tummy so we can listen to the baby.
- Babies born into water are hands-free.
Your baby’s head will ideally be born without assistance or interference, and the shoulders and body follow gently in the next contraction. When your baby is born, you will need to lift your baby out of the water and onto your chest. If you are not in a position to be able to reach your baby, your midwife can help you with this.
- Keep baby’s head above water.
Baby’s head must be kept above the waterline once they have been brought up and out of the water. They must not be submerged again after this because the baby’s breathing has already been triggered.
Dr Janelle McAlpine (PhD), Clinical Midwife
Bovbjerg, M.L., Cheyney, M. & Everson, C. 2016, "Maternal and Newborn Outcomes Following Waterbirth: The Midwives Alliance of North America Statistics Project, 2004 to 2009 Cohort", Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health, vol. 61, no. 1, pp. 11-20.