Potential Benefits of Water Birth
For women who are interested in a water birth or for using tubs as part of their birthing experience, the Birthing Center at The University of Vermont Medical Center offers five deep soaking tubs and one water birth tub.
Deep, warm water has an incredible ability to soothe and relax a woman in labor and facilitate the birthing process. The buoyancy of the water helps reduce gravity and create a "weightlessness" for the laboring woman, at the same time supporting her body with gentle pressure all around. The water also allows for a woman to change into different positions easily. Position changes are important in labor to encourage the baby's passage through the pelvis.
Laboring in water may make a woman feel more open, making it easier to let go completely. The more relaxed a woman is, the more relaxed her body postures become. However, it can also make some women feel more vulnerable. If she is more anxious or tight in the water a kneeling position may help with her back up or getting out of the water may be better for her.
The potential benefits of being in the water during labor include but are not limited to:
- Relaxation and energy conservation for the laboring woman
- Shortening of the first and second stages of labor
- Freedom of movement and support of the abdomen
- Increased sense of privacy during labor
- Improved management of pain during labor with the decreased need for medical pain management techniques.
Additionally, the potential benefits for giving birth in the tub are the continued comfort and relaxation that the water provides, promotion of the optimal positioning of the mother to assist the descent of the baby, and relaxation of the muscles of the perineum.
Although giving birth in the water, in the presence of a skilled birth attendant, can be a wonderful way to welcome your new baby into the world, individual case reports of newborn illness and death related to waterbirth have been published. Risks to the baby include and are not limited to:
- Respiratory distress (difficulty or inability to breath due to inhaling water or other fluids)
- Pneumonia, drowning, water intoxication, ruptured umbilical cord, anemia, and infection
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the safety of waterbirth be documented with research studies.
We would like to support your choices in childbirth and make sure that you and your baby are always safe throughout the experience. Using water for labor and birth can help to promote a positive birthing experience. We will continue to offer water birth for the appropriate candidates in the context of a research protocol.
At the UVM Medical Center, we ask you to sign an informed consent if you are planning a waterbirth. If you chose to use hydrotherapy for labor and are an appropriate candidate for a water birth, we also ask you to consider signing the consent in the event you chose not to get out of the tub at the time of birth.
Water is wonderful but it may not be the answer for all women. Some women find water is not as comforting as they expected. But it can make the pain more bearable to float and relax in a tub. There are some situations that are not appropriate or safe for water births.
Discuss Water Birth with Your Midwife
If you are considering a water birth please discuss this with your midwife so you are aware of what situations would be too risky to birth in the water. Women who decide waterbirth is something they want as an option for them will be asked to participate in a study. We want to document the safety of waterbirth. Please discuss this further with your nurse-midwife.
Want More Information About Water Births at the UVM Medical Center?
Call us at 802-847-1400.