What Are The Risks To The Mother And Baby?
Over the last 30 years as water birth has grown in popularity, there has been very little research regarding the risks of water birth. Some studies in Europe have shown similar perinatal mortality rates between water births and conventional births. According to an article written by the Royal College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists, there might be a theoretical risk of water embolism, which occurs when water enters the mother’s blood stream. Though the British Medical Journal is 95% confident in the safety of water births, they see a possible risk of water aspiration.
If the baby is experiencing stress in the birth canal or if the umbilical cord becomes kinked or twisted, the baby might gasp for air with the possibility of inhaling water. This would be a rare occurrence because babies do not normally inhale until they are exposed to air. They continue to receive oxygen through the umbilical cord until they start to breathe on their own or until the cord is cut. The final potential risk is that the umbilical cord could snap as the baby is brought to the surface of the water. This can be prevented by using caution when lifting the baby up to the mother’s chest.
What Situations Are Not Ideal For Water Birth?
- If you have Herpes: Herpes transfers easily in water, so you should discuss this risk thoroughly with your health care provider.
- If your baby is breech: Though water birth has been done with bottom or feet first presentations you should discuss this risk thoroughly with your health care provider.
- If you have been diagnosed with one of the following: excessive bleeding or maternal infection.
- If you are having multiples: Though water births have been successful around the world with twin birth, you should discuss this risk thoroughly with your health care provider.
- If preterm labor is expected: If a baby is pre-term (two weeks or more prior to due date), water birth is not recommended.
- If there is severe meconium: Mild to moderate meconium is fairly normal. Since meconium floats to the surface in a tub, your health care provider will watch for it and remove it immediately, or help you out of the tub. Meconium usually washes off the face of the baby and even comes out of the nose and mouth while the baby is still under water. If the water is stained and birth is imminent, the woman can lift her pelvis out of the water to birth the infant.
- If you have toxemia or preeclampsia: You should thoroughly discuss this risk with your health care provider.
I Thought Hot Tubs And Whirlpools Could Be Dangerous During Pregnancy?
The risk depends on the temperature. If the water is too hot, dehydration and overheating become risks to you and the baby. You should try to stay well hydrated and make sure the temperature of water stays at 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Birthing pools are specifically designed to prevent this problem.
- Gilber RE, Tookey PA. Perinatal mortality and morbidity among babies delivered in water: national surveillance study. BMJ 1999; 319:483-7
- LMM Duley MRCOG, Oxford. “Birth In water: RCOG Statement No. 1.” Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist. January 2001.
- “Perinatal mortality and morbidity among babies delivered in water: surveillance study and postal survey.” British Medical Journal. August 21, 1999.