A woman sitting in a tub

Waterbirthing: A Healthy Alternative?

You’re in the final trimester of pregnancy and now faced with decisions galore while trying to come up with a birth plan. It ought to be simple enough. Your water breaks, the contractions start, and it’s off to the hospital. There you’ll be faced with the decision of whether or not you want painkillers such as the epidural but that will be another decision entirely. But have you ever stopped to consider the alternatives to your average hospital birth? Alternatives that might even be healthier and less stressful for both mom and baby?

One of these supposedly less stressful methods of birth is waterbirthing – where the mother both labors and delivers her baby in a ‘birthing pool.’ Waterbirths in the United States are on the rise – both at home and in birthing centers. Due to the popularity of this method, some hospitals are even placing birthing centers within their halls or offering women the chance to try it out in the delivery room – though this is not yet a widespread occurrence.

The pros to this method of birth seem to outweigh the cons and due to the fact the incidence of perinatal mortality is no higher than that of natural birth it does indeed seem to be safe. Pros include feelings of both privacy and relaxation for the mother, less painful contractions (only about ten percent of women who labor in water ask for pain medication,) the water allows the mother to float which eases pain as well. Bear in mind that babies spend nine months floating in amniotic fluid acid as well, being born into water is less of a shock compared to the air. Water also helps to stretch skin so that the perineum is less likely to tear – lessening the need for an episiotomy or stitches. The mother will also be free to try other positions rather than being confined to lying in a bed.

Despite these pros, there are still situations where a mother is advised against a waterbirth as most practitioners refuse to allow a woman with a high-high pregnancy to try the method. These situations include:

– Gestational diabetes
– The baby will be born prematurely.
– Preeclampsia
– Toxemia
– A previous Cesarean section.
– Twins or multiples.

Aside from these situations, most women are eligible to try giving birth in water and most practitioners will inform the mother of the possible cons. Such as the fact there is a small – but highly unlikely – chance the baby will inhale water. Another unlikely event is that the baby will experience stress within the birth canal and gasp for air – also inhaling water. The likelihood of the umbilical cord snapping when the baby is placed into mother’s arms but this can be avoided with care.

If the pool or water is not clean there is always the possibility of infection but most birthing centers have strict regulations toward cleaning the pools and pools at home may be cleaned with bleach to kill germs.

The cost of a waterbirth is generally less than that of the hospital – ranging anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of the usual costs if performed in a birthing center. A birthing pool may be rented for around $300 at home and bought for $1000. Most insurance plans cover waterbirths as well.

The most essential thing to remember though is that the mother needs a certified midwife or doctor willing to supervise the birth – especially if performed at home. With the proper precautions and prenatal care, waterbirths are without a doubt a healthy and efficient way to welcome that newborn baby into the world.