Doctors warn against dangers of water births

By Shayna Brouker • Published: July 31st, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

From a warm, watery womb to a warm, watery bathtub — it sounds like the ideal way to enter the world. And it seems great for mom, too — welcoming your baby in the comfort of a warm bath. Many hospitals even offer the option. But some obstetricians think it can make the process of birth even more dangerous for mom and baby, according to a report in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Doctors draw a big distinction between laboring under water, which may offer advantages, and delivering under water, which can be very dangerous. According to the docs, a baby’s entry into the world is already fraught with risk — why up the ante? Risks include an increased chance of infection in mom and baby, trouble controlling the baby’s body temperature, increased risk of damage to the umbilical cord, breathing problems caused by the baby inhaling water and in the worst case, seizures or suffocation of the baby after birth.

Hospitals should enforce strict measures, added the doctors, including screening eligible women, stringent cleaning of tubs and immersion pools, following safe infection-control procedures and regular monitoring of women while immersed.

All considered, water births do offer bountiful benefits to moms-to-be, and chief among them is a less stressful experience. Water soothes the soul and relaxes muscles, enabling mom to focus on the birth. It can also increase blood flow, decreasing pain. Water birth could even abbreviate the first stage of labor, diminishing the need for pain control. Overall, it gives mom a better sense of control in one of the most daunting and unpredictable situations she’ll face in her life.

Water births are certainly worth considering, but be sure to consult with your hospital and doctor. And whatever you do, don’t try it at home unless under the care of an experienced midwife and doula.