A person’s birth experience comes with a wide variety of options. Water births are becoming increasingly popular as they help deliver a more relaxing way to go through labor and delivery. They have been known to offer pain relief, lessen the stress that can come with labor, and reduce complications for the baby.
Immersing themselves in water can be a soothing experience for a person going through labor. The buoyancy of the water helps to lessen the weight allowing for more unrestricted movements and newer positions that would have been difficult to attain.
Having a water birth often means delivering the baby outside of the traditional hospital settings. Water birth is seen as a controversial practice in the United States due to the lack of scientific evidence to support it as a standard of care, and further research is needed. Many professional organizations have published positions opposing and supporting water births.
A new study published in November 2021 reviewed the safety of water births versus land births on both the parent and the baby. The study found no increased risk of death or major trauma for parents who gave birth to their babies immersed in water. This significant study could open doors for more birthing centers within traditional hospitals settings to allow more people to choose to have water births.
Water Birth Study Findings
The study, led by Marit Bovbjerg, and co-authored by Melissa Cheyney and Aaron Caughey, compared 35,060 pregnancies throughout all 50 states: 17,530 water births and 17,530 non-water births. The study focused on pregnancies that were low risk and healthy without complications. One of the more unique aspects of this study was matching the pregnancies on more than 80 covariables such as pregnancy characteristics, age, education level, and more.
People have been choosing water birth because it helps with the pain associated with labor, and the few hospitals that offer water for immersion force you to get out of the tub. The study focused on the safety of babies being born immersed in water without the parent needing to get out of the tub to deliver. Most people in labor would prefer to stay in the warmth of the water as they work through the delivery. Aside from breathing techniques, support, and movements, the only other pain relief is an epidural, which comes with its own risks.
Overall, the study found that water births had a better outcome than non-water births. Water births were associated with lower risks for dangerous maternal outcomes, such as 64 fewer hemorrhages per 10,000 births and 28 fewer hospitalizations within the first six weeks post-delivery.
A waterbirth can be a safe, viable option for people who want an alternative to the care a hospital can provide and want to avoid invasive pain-relieving methods like epidurals and minimize the risks of birth complications.
You can read more about the study published here.