Every woman wants to have an empowering birth experience, which is gentle, loving
and safe. But with all the birthing choices available today, it’s not always an easy
decision to make. The birthing experience will not only affect your life but more
importantly the life of your baby. If you are looking for ways to avoid unnecessary
trauma during the birthing process, consider a water birth. It can be a relaxing and
What is a water birth?
During a water birth, your baby is born from your birth canal directly into water. It may
sound daunting but the use of water has many advantages during the labour process.
Water births are organised and conducted by health professionals who are
experienced in the procedure. A birth pool is used, as it is more comfortable than a
bath and it allows you to move freely and squat at the time of the birth. A water birth
is not messy either. The water remains clear until the placenta is delivered - and by
then you're out of the water and tucked up with your baby.
Who can have water births?
Any woman who is at low risk, healthy and has a will to give birth in this manner can
How do I go about having a water birth?
Due to the fact that large numbers of local obstetricians do not have the experience to
conduct water births, it may prove difficult to engage their services for this type of
delivery. However, many midwives conduct water births and they can serve as a
valuable first port of call if you are considering delivering in this manner. Remember,
this is not a new type of birthing method, countries like France have been performing
water births in a hospital setting since 1978.
Where can I have a water birth?
Water births can be conducted in settings such as hospitals, your own home or at
birth centres. Find a hospital that will accommodate your needs once you have
decided to pursue this option. Ask your midwife or doctor - they will be able to assist
you to select an appropriate facility.
What are the advantages to having a water birth?
It’s relaxing – you are less stressed and can concentrate better;
Pain-relieving hormones (endorphins) are released during delivery and
according to the “Gate Theory", 90% of women who enter the birth pool do not
need pain relief;
You can move around freely without getting tired, which means you have more
energy to use;
It encourages stretching due to the warmth and relaxing qualities of water;
It encourages easier breathing due to the vapour of the water;
It will provide you with privacy, so you’ll feel less inhibited, which can shorten
the labour and birth;
It lowers blood pressure; and
Intervention is reduced, e.g. fewer episiotomies and internal examinations, less
need for forceps delivery and less epidural anaesthetics.
Benefits for the baby
Babies spend nine months after conception in water (amniotic fluid) which stands to
reason that water is therefore a completely natural environment for a baby to be born
in. The baby is not immediately exposed to the shock of a cold environment, flushed
with harsh light and loud sounds. And research has shown that babies who are born
under water seldom cry and seem relaxed and content.
Will the baby drown?
In short? No. Two main things cause the baby to breathe when it is born:
The change in temperature; and
The change in pressure when moving from the birth canal to the outside world.
Both the temperature and pressure change are not as extreme during a water birth as
they are during birth outside water. During the water birth, the water temperature is
closely monitored and kept between 16 and 39°C (body temperature). The pressure
at the bottom of the bath is also greater than the pressure of air, so the pressure
difference between the birth canal and water is not so great either.
A baby born under water will not breathe until it comes into contact with air, i.e. when
it is lifted out of the water.
Your caregiver will monitor the baby’s condition and will look out for things like
meconium-stained fluid or an irregular heart rate in the baby, which may alert them to
And if the baby is in distress before the birth (in utero), you will be advised not to
proceed with this type of delivery as it may pose a risk to yourself and your child if
medical intervention is needed and cannot be implemented in time.
Not everyone wants to have a water birth. Some women progress through the stages
of labour in water and give birth outside of it. Others have successful a water birth.
If you are interested in this mode of delivery, gather information about it and speak to
other mothers who have given birth in water. Speak to a midwife and your doctor. An
informed decision is more likely to result in a satisfactory experience.
For more information, contact your Baby Banker care manager on 0800 Bankmed
(0800 226 5633) or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Expectant mother’s guide 2005