Water Births: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

If you’re pregnant and planning a natural birth, you’ve probably heard about the water birth – laboring and/or giving birth in water, usually in a birthing pool or a tub – as a natural birthing option.

Why a water birth?

The Good

Based on current research and women’s experiences, there’s a long list of benefits to using a birthing pool or tub during labor:

  • Pain relief
  • Relaxation
  • Buoyancy helps women to feel lighter
  • Facilitates easier position changes
  • Helps reduce stress hormones that increase pain
  • Immersion in water can help reduce anxiety related hypertension
  • Reduced risk of episiotomy and tearing
  • Can facilitate the fetal ejection reflex rather than interfere with it
  • Encourages relaxation of the pelvic floor
  • Reduces inhibition and anxiety by creating a feeling of privacy allowing a mother to better listen to her natural birthing instincts and work with her body
  • Encourages a gentler arrival and transition for baby
  • By facilitating movement, privacy, and emotional and physical relaxation it can reduce the length of labor by encouraging the release of labour hormones
  • Reduces the risk of interventions such as synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin/Syntocinon), epidural and assisted birth

Doesn’t that all sound wonderful? Definitely all things to ease the incredibly challenging work of giving birth.

So what’s the downside?

The Bad

Chlorine! If you’re using tap water, beware the toxic effects of chlorine:

Chlorine is a dangerous chemical.  It would be ideal not to ingest it ever, or to breathe it in.  According to a 2012 study, chlorine and chemicals containing it can significantly impact gut flora, which can lead to an increased risk of several illnesses, including auto- immune disorders.  That’s concerning.

If at all possible, use filtered water instead to avoid the toxicity of chlorine and other chemicals/toxins which could be in you tap water.

… there are many other things that more significantly affect your baby’s gut than the tub water!  (Especially if you regularly bathe in the water and will bathe baby in it — those exposures will matter much more, long-term, than a single, brief exposure at birth.)

Also remember not to rub baby roughly with a towel, don’t bathe baby with soap, and establish breastfeeding as soon as possible for optimal gut health.

If you’re considering a water birth, here’s …

The Beautiful

Read for yourself one momma’s beautiful story of the first of her six water births. Below is a snippet of her experience:

I will never forget how it felt to ease into the warm water. Immediately it surrounded me like a warm down quilt, holding me close, supporting me. I relaxed, sinking deeper, and noticing how the pains, which had been shooting down my legs and had held like a tight band across my abdomen, had vanished.

In that warm, supporting environment, I sighed, sinking deeper. With the next contraction, I breathed deeply and slowly, marveling at how much better I felt laboring in the water. I fell into the steady rhythm of birth, breathing through each pain and relaxing completely in between, resting so fully that all the tension left me and I could focus, instead, on helping my body to work.

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