Water birth or giving birth to a child in a birthing pool is considered to be safe and also beneficial to the mother and the child. However, there are some areas of concern. There is a degree of unanimity among doctors that water birth is largely beneficial and there are no serious shortcomings or risk factors. But there are always exceptions and specific cases where the negligible risk factors become considerable.
Before we delve into water birth pros and cons, it is necessary to shed light on the difference of laboring in water and birthing in water. Many doctors recommend laboring in a pool but they may switch to conventional birthing later. It would be unwise to consider water birth pros and cons without considering laboring in water as well.
1. Labor can be painful, stressful and quite unbearable in some cases. Almost every mother experiences a lot of pain and is extremely tensed during the latter stages of labor. Contractions are especially painful. Laboring in water or contractions while in the birthing pool can be much more comfortable. Water is an effective relaxant. It can relax the mother and make the contractions rhythmic. This is also good for the baby.
2. Other than facilitating relaxation, water allows or helps the muscles to ease. This helps the mother to have quicker contractions.
3. Many doctors point out that laboring in water has a psychological advantage. The mother is in better control and enjoys more privacy while in the pool.
4. Laboring in water, contractions and birthing become much more comfortable because of buoyancy. While on a conventional bed, a mother is unable to move freely and it requires some effort. While in the birthing pool, the mother can easily move around using the buoyancy and can find the most comfortable position. The mother’s position and comfort level would also determine how comfortable it is for the baby during the birthing process.
5. Water is also a healer. Pain is unavoidable during labor, contractors or birth. Water makes the pain a little more bearable. Just as warm water does away with body-aches, a birthing pool counters the need of pain relief medication in many cases.
6. Water birth demands the presence of a doctor at all times. This allows the mother and the baby to have a professional attendant around for as long as necessary. In normal birthing processes, doctors attend to multiple mothers and their focus is divided. With water birth, that doesn’t happen.
7. Water birth allows natural labor. Before the modern era, babies were born without the supervision and active role of doctors or medical staff. Water birth brings a mother closer to that when she does almost everything by herself. This can be very satiating for a mother.
8. Water birth is considered to be healthy and beneficial because of many reasons. One primary reason is the less likelihood of a tear. The perineum is always at risk of tear but water birth reduces that risk by softening the tissues. Softened tissues have a greater ability to stretch and that can counter the causes of a tear.
9. Water birth is considered to be ideal for the baby because the pool provides a similar environment as the womb. The baby doesn’t have to quit the watery environment inside the mother and suddenly be in a dry and airy environment, as is the case with traditional birth. The transition in the birthing pool is pleasant for the baby.
1. A birthing pool can always get infected. The plumbing network or pipes, the pool itself or the water in the pool can get infected. However, there are no such reports and scientific evidence is lacking in this context.
2. A mother may not feel entirely comfortable with the whole idea. A birthing pool has some challenges such as medical staff needing to clean blood clots or feces from within the pool, removing any unpleasant bodily secretions or excretions.
3. Some pain relief medications or procedures cannot be carried out in the laboring or birthing pool. For such procedures or administering of certain medicines, the mother will have to leave the pool which can be quite undesirable. Many doctors also recommend leaving the laboring pool at the last stage.
4. Water birth can be tricky when there are emergency situations. The response time is stretched because the mother has to be brought out of the pool.
5. There are some other concerns with water birth but they are not really backed by scientific evidence. A baby starting to breathe underwater, an increased risk of tears and the likelihood of umbilical cord snapping are some concerns.
6. Water birth may not be allowed by doctors for mothers who have some medical conditions.