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Women seeking alternative ways to give birth, will probably consider a water birth as one of the options. A water birth is exactly what it says: a mother-to-be gives birth in a tub full of warm water. Some women go through the labor in the water, but get out when it is time for the delivery. Others choose to stay in the water throughout the whole process.
The idea behind a water birth is that the baby has spent months inside the mother’s womb (where it is surrounded by water) and will feel more at ease to be birthed in an environment that he or she knows best.
There are pros and cons to giving birth in water.
For the mother-to-be, being in the water tub is more relaxing than lying in a bed. Because she feels physically more relaxed, she will also feel less nervous. This allows her to direct her energy toward the delivery process.
The warmth of the water has a soothing and pain relieving function. The pull of the baby towards the mother’s back is lessened and so the pain is not so hard to bear either.
The water allows the mother to float somewhat, which makes it easier to shift positions. It will also give her energy when she most needs it. The buoyancy equally allows better circulation of the blood and better contractions of the uterus. This will make the birthing process less painful and provides a better oxygen flow for the child.
When reading material about water births, we find evidence that tearing may be reduced.
One of the first disadvantages is that there is no real research into the risks of water births. However, some possible risks are suggested.
One of those risks is that there is a possibility that water enters the woman’s blood stream.
It is unlikely, but there is also a chance that the baby might experience stress within the birth canal and will gasp for air. But if he or she is in the water, the baby would inhale water into the lungs. However, this is highly unlikely. A baby almost never inhales until exposed to air.
There is also a slight chance that the umbilical cord would snap when the baby is pulled to the water’s surface. This can be avoided by being cautious when the nurse lifts the baby to the mother’s chest.
A research study by Dr. Ruth Gilbert, MD, "Water Birth – A Near-Drowning Experience" (published in the UK), claims that there have been deaths by poorly managed water births, and that every woman contemplating a water birth has to regard the safety of her child as her first concern.
To weigh the potential pros and cons of water birth, women need to know how likely it is that a serious problem will occur. In the doctor’s study (surveyed in England and Wales) she found a potential mortality rate of 1.2/1000.
A future mother should consider indeed what is best for her, and for her child.