Is Water Birthing Safe?

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... "water birthing," [is] considered by some women and midwives to be a healthier, more natural alternative to traditional hospital births.

Mothers who choose water birth go through labor and delivery immersed in warm water, believing that pain will be less severe and the experience more enjoyable and relaxing ... studies have shown that mothers who choose a water birth request fewer painkillers than women who don't, and fewer drugs translate into the perception of a safer and more natural birth.

... But is it good for the baby?

The research isn't clear.

... researcher Sarah Nguyen questioned the safety of water births and described instances of infants inhaling water and feces following underwater deliveries ... other researchers concluded, "... we are convinced there is no evidence to support any benefit of underwater birth for the neonate, and plenty of evidence to suggest harm [including] the potential for drowning, hyponatremic seizure activity, infection, and pneumonia."

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not recommend water births, suggesting instead that children born in hospitals are safer — if for no other reason than professional medical help is immediately available in case of complications. Unless your bathtub happens to be located near a neonatal unit, emergency medical help may not be available during the baby's first minutes of life.

Of course, there is some risk to both the child and the mother during any birth, whether it occurs in a bathtub or a hospital. All births are natural, yet some births are safer than others.

The research that suggests that water birth ia not safe is based on very small numbers and potential issues. Nothing has been found as conctere evidence that waterbirth is harmful for babies. However, research has shown that waterbirth has enormous benefits for the woman: better pain relief, less likelihood of needing an epidural, less likelihood of tearing, no episiotomies, shorter labours and so on.

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448