Is Water Birth Safe?

In the wake of the development of ‘water birth’, there is now a great deal of interest in different birthing methods.

A few years ago, the majority of people would simply go to a hospital, lies down and give birth. But now there are so many labor accessories, tools and postures.

A new childbirth culture has risen from the growing wish to help the pregnant woman reduce pain and enable her to happily give birth.

There is more family participation to help relieve the new mother’s anxieties. Previously, the mother would independently have to endure everything, but now it has turned into an opportunity to build stronger relationships between relatives.

Currently in Taiwan, alternative birthing methods are not widespread, nevertheless as follows is an introduction to each method which include water birth.

Floating in Water: The Birthing Pool Method

water birth

Japan, along with many European countries, has become the first 30 countries in the world to use the birthing pool technique. It is still not common in Taiwan, but as it offers reduced pain and faster labor, let’s take a look!

How to Define Birthing Pool Labor?

As the body enters the water, it will become relaxed and peaceful, advocates of this method believe it is because the feeling is similar to that of the baby in the amniotic sac, thus in taking this position in a pool of water to give birth is very peaceful. Whilst in the water, gravity helps allow the pelvis to open to the maximum width and is therefore easier for the mother to push. The contractions will also be much less painful. This birthing method was first introduced in Europe, America and Japan, but now the whole world is using it, with England being the foremost user.

Create a peaceful environment for the baby

As the newborn baby moves from the amniotic sac within the mother’s belly into the warm water, there will not be a sudden change in environment. Water also has a dampening effect so it will greatly reduce the influence of light and sound. As the baby’s head emerges, the light in the delivery room will be much dimmer which will protect the newborns sight. It is also good to avoid loud sounds.

When the cervix is dilated and the baby is born, the nursing staff will help the mother push, and will help clean the baby’s mouth of any surplus matter. The umbilical cord doesn’t need to be cut immediately. It can be done 5 minutes later which will help the newborn suck in oxygen through the cord to the lungs. After the bleeding from the umbilical cord has stopped, we wait for the father to come and cut the cord. Then the newborn baby is placed on the mother’s breast to listen to her heartbeat and drink milk. Lastly, the infant is placed into 37 degree water and wait for it to open its eyes.

Water Plays the Role of Pain Relief

With the onset of contractions, simple clothing is worn and then the mother enters into the birthing pool and from here goes through the cycle of contractions and rest periods. The mother will feel safer in the water. It will reduce the fear and anxiety of the mother, so the pregnancy labor can proceed much more quickly. Because water provides buoyancy, so it helps the mother to move along with the contractions and the posture can be adjusted at any time. This feels like the body is much more relaxed and the heart will be much more peaceful and the peak of the pain from contractions will be much more bearable. The mother’s peace of mind will also be passed on to the baby and will help develop a stronger bond between the mother and child. In the water, the elasticity of the vagina is also increased so it is not necessary to cut the vagina during water births.

Cost is an additional 200-330 USD

The water pool method must have a perfect facility to accommodate the birthing process. One mother must use the birthing pool for around 2-3 hours, as the labor begins, the nursing staff must be present around the pool guiding the birth. On average, expect to spend up to $300 to $400 on it.

The Disadvantage of Birthing Pools

Danger of Infection

The problem of birthing pools is the danger of infection for the mother and child. The quality and cleanliness of the water is not easy to determine and during birth, all the matter the mother pushes out from the body will mix in the water and can lead to infection. However, the European countries that so often adopt this method believe that with thorough preparation, infection can be prevented.

Water Birth

Water pools use circulating water and the warm water will maintain the mother’s body temperature at 37 degrees. The mother giving birth in the water will have a comfortable birthing experience and reduces the rate of cesarean section. According to findings from the research done on 1,355 water births, there is a greatly lower rate of surgery to enlarge the cervix during labor. Therefore, anesthetic and painkillers are not necessary; the labor period is also much shorter. Though there are reports from around the world that suggest that a failed water birth can result in a baby’s death, and the rate of failure for water births is actually not so low. So currently, the medical community in Taiwan does not support the water birth method.

With a properly equipped tub, and under normal delivery conditions, there should be no need to worry about infections. A survey of 4,000 English newborns delivered by water birth in 1999 indicated that the chance of infection was the same as that of conventional delivery.

No Immediate Way to Check the Status of the Fetus

When labor pains occur during water birth, there is no way to place instruments that can check the fetal heartbeat or degree of uterine contraction. Therefore, though occasional monitoring of the fetal heartbeat is feasible, sustained monitoring is difficult. This is one shortcoming of water birth.

This Delivery Method Is Not for Everyone

High risk pregnancies, such as ones involving preeclampsia or mothers with hepatitis, syphilis, AIDS or other highly infectious diseases cannot have water births. Additionally, water birth is not an option for mothers whose amniotic fluid has been polluted by fetal excrement, who have used pain killers within two hours, who are worried about fetal respiratory issues or delayed development, premature births or oversized newborns, or if the mother has previously had a C-section. Water birth is also not an option for mothers who are using hysterotonics, sedatives or other medicines, mothers whose amnion has been split for over 24 hours, or who have recently contracted vaginitis, urethritis, or dermatitis.

Most Common Questions About the Water Delivery

Breathing Underwater?

During a planned water birth, you might worry that water will enter the newborn's mouth or respiratory tract and obstruct breather. However, when newborns are out of water, there will be a temporary period wherein they will be unable to breathe using their lungs. This is because, for the first 6-8 minutes after birth, the newborn continues using the umbilical cord as its oxygen source. The newborn will have no difficulty getting oxygen while underwater. Furthermore, for water births, the newborn will be submerged for 20 seconds at most before being taken from the water. So don't worry. Based on statistical studies, newborns who are delivered via water birth are less likely than conventionally delivered babies to have foreign bodies present in their mouths.

Water Birth on Paper

When labor pains begin, go to the waiting room to await full dilation of the cervix. When the cervix has dilated to 6cm, get in the bath to prepare, you will experience the pains of labor before the delivery is complete. Finally, you will have to deal with the placenta and umbilical cord.


1: Get in the tub when the cervix has dilated to 6cm.

2: When the cervix has dilated to 4cm, administer an enema. Enter the tub when the cervix has dilated to 6cm to prepare for water delivery, assume the delivery position.

3: If it feels as though the fetus is moving downward, assume a squatting position to aid delivery.

4: When the head of the fetus has completely emerged, in most cases, this is the moment when an episiotomy would be performed.

5: As the fetus emerges, if you can see its bottom, it means that the delivery has reached safe completion.

6: Pick up the fetus; remove any amniotic fluid from its mouth.

7: After playing with the newborn in the water for about 5 minutes, the fetus should be brought to its mother's chest to begin breastfeeding.

8: After blocking blood flow to the umbilical cord, sever the umbilical cord. This is something that the newborn's father may do.

You may want to try to have water birth. However, it would be helpful to seek advice from your doctor.

Sandra Henderson

Editor-in-chief at Babiology and a proud mother of four passionate about sharing pregnancy and baby growth knowledges

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