Monday, July 31, 2017

Is Water Birth a Safe Option?

Birth pool waterbirth at home
Image courtesy of Catherine Anne Photography

One of our frequently asked questions is, "Do you do water births?"
The answer is yes, we do! Laboring and/or birthing in the water is a popular option among our home birth clients.  We have two birth pools, which we loan out at no charge (there is a $30 charge for the disposable liner.) We will give you instructions on setting it up, how to fill it, when to fill it, how to drain it, and anything else you need to know.

The above photo is one of our tubs in use. The water is approximately chest deep and covers your belly when full. (That's me in the photo. I loved my waterbirths!)

Another question we are frequently asked is, "What do you think about waterbirth? Is it safe?"

The short answer is yes, we believe waterbirth is safe, based on our experience, along with the current literature. We have seen that immersing in a tub of warm water benefits laboring mothers by helping them relax, helping them to get into comfortable positions, making it easier to cope with contractions, and decreasing their perception of pain. If our client chooses to stay in the pool to birth the baby, we have not seen any increase of adverse outcomes for the baby in our practice.

If you would like to read more about this birth choice, Evidence-Based Birth published an excellent article on water birth, written by Rebecca Dekker, PhD, RN, APRN, in which she thoroughly examined the existing research that has been done on water birth (and there is an 80 page annoted bibliography available of all the research studies that have been done.) The conclusion:

For women, there are several benefits associated with waterbirth. There is strong evidence that waterbirth is associated with a lower episiotomy rate, and that women who use waterbirth will have higher rates of intact perineum and use less medicine for pain relief.The benefits or risks for the newborn are less clear, but so far the evidence shows fewer or equal NICU admission rates for waterbirth babies compared to babies born on land.There have been rare case reports of breathing problems or infections in infants after waterbirth, but these risks have not been seen in the large, recent, prospective studies on waterbirth.The ACOG/AAP opinion statement on waterbirth contained major scientific errors and was an inaccurate and incomplete review of the literature.Their opinion statement should not be relied upon to make informed decisions about the availability of waterbirth for women. Based on the data that we have,waterbirth is a reasonable option for low-risk women during childbirth, provided that they understand the potential benefits and risks. If women have a strong desire for waterbirth, and there are experienced care providers who are comfortable in attending waterbirths, then at this time there is no evidence to deny women this option of pain relief. Although we need more research on waterbirth, the available research shows that universal bans on waterbirth are not evidence-based.

Although getting in the tub during labor is a possibility at some of our local area hospitals, none of them allow water birth. Hospital policies mandate getting out of the tub before pushing begins.

If a water birth is what you desire, and home birth is an option for you, there are experienced midwives in Arkansas who are comfortable attending waterbirths. I would love to chat with you about it! Give me a call or text at 501-436-8525, or email me.

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