Water Birth Delivery: Benefits and Risks

When you progress into the later months or trimesters of pregnancy, there are a lot of things to prepare for regarding the birth of your child. Whether you put this decision in your third-trimester checklist or plan it even earlier, the choice of birthing process needs to be given careful consideration. Recently, after the revelation of Kalki Koechlin’s pregnancy and her plan to have a water birth in Goa, a lot of you might be wondering if that is an option for you too. To make this decision easier for you here is everything to know about water birth in India. In this blog, we will discuss the following:

  1. What is Water Birth?
  2. How to prepare for natural water birth?
  3. Water Birth Risks
  4. Water Birth Benefits
  5. FAQs

What is a Water Birth?

As the name suggests, water birth is where you give birth in a tub of warm water rather than having a normal delivery in a hospital bed. However, there are two aspects of water birth, labour and delivery. Some women prefer just to have laboured in the water while others choose to have both the water labour and water birth. Waterbirth is usually associated with a more relaxed and natural birth, as water is a very soothing environment to be in at that time. 

How to prepare for natural water birth?

One of the first things you need to do to prepare for a water birth delivery is to talk to your gynaecologist about it. Your doctor will accurately tell you whether it is okay or not for you to have a natural water birth. Not everyone has a healthy pregnancy without any complications that stop them from having a water birth. Similarly, the resources and medical practitioners that help in a water birth are not always available to you either. 

Pregnant woman in a natural water birth pool at a hospital.

Make sure that you are fully aware and informed about the pros and cons of this choice beforehand. Doing some research on your own about water birth risks and benefits will certainly help you. It will be easier to not just make the final decision, but also to go through the actual process.

  1. Water Birth Risks
    The research about the risks of water birth has been very little because the actual cases where something went wrong are also very less. But here are some of the most common risks of having a water birth:
    • Water Embolism – This a condition where water enters the mother’s bloodstream during delivery, something that can happen more easily during water birth delivery. 
    • Water Aspiration – This happens when water goes in your windpipe and you have trouble breathing normally. In simpler terms, it can be understood as accidentally inhaling some water and that can happen during a water birth if you are not exercising caution. 
    • Baby experiencing stress – There is a possibility of your baby struggling for air or inhaling water if their umbilical cord is twisted. The same can also happen if the baby is experiencing stress in the birth canal.
    • Umbilical cord snapping – This is the only other risk that can potentially cause problems for your baby due to rough handling during birth. Extra caution is required by the midwife or nurse so that they won’t break the umbilical cord.
  2. Water Birth Benefits
    More and more pregnant women across the world are opting for water births because of the many benefits of the process. Here are some of the most well-known water birth benefits for both the mother and her baby:
    • Water labour is easier – While being in the water is soothing and relaxing to an extent, it also keeps up your energy in the later stages of labour. Being inside water makes you feel lighter and makes your movements easier, a byproduct of the buoyancy. It also makes uterine contractions efficient, thus reducing some of the labour pain. 
    • Reduces anxiety-related problems – Natural water birth often triggers the release of endorphins that work as pain inhibitors too. Since water reduces the physical stress and anxiety for birth, it automatically helps in reducing any elevated blood pressure levels also. 
    • Increased Privacy – Being inside water provides a barrier from the outside world, giving you a sense of privacy and comfort. This makes you less anxious and fearful, ultimately making you let go of inhibitions and worries about giving birth.
    • Benefits for baby – Being born in water prevents your baby from experiencing any shocking change of environment because it is quite similar to how it is inside the womb. He/ she is born with an added sense of security via this method.
Mother holding her newborn secure after a water birth delivery.

Another thing that factors in the preparation is access to a medical centre or hospital that provides such facilities. The ready availability of expert professionals is implied here as well. While the actual procedure is supposed to be stress-free, worrying about it can cause you a little stress. To help ease your mind, visit the facility beforehand and ask all the questions you want to from the people involved. 

  • How many pregnant women actually opt for this? 
  • Is the staff at the facility especially trained for water births? 
  • Will the pool for water birth be available around your due date

After clearing other doubts that you have, find out if it is a viable option for you or not.

When can you not have a natural water birth?

There are many occasions where a pregnant woman wants to have a water birth but is not eligible to do so. There are certain situations where you are not allowed to have water birth delivery. These can be a serious medical condition or just the state of your pregnancy. Here are some situations where this is not ideal:

  1. When you have pregnancy complications like excessive bleeding, maternal infections or preeclampsia etc. 
  2. If you are suffering from Herpes, it will cause a risk to you and your baby in water birth. Discuss a normal delivery with your doctor in this case.
  3. Having twins or multiple children is not ideal for a water birth. Multiple pregnancy has an added risk that you need to consider beforehand carefully.
  4. If you have preterm labour, water birth is definitely not recommended.
  5. If you have a breech presentation, meaning your baby’s feet or bottom will come out first, then water birth risks definitely increase.
A water birth delivery baby being taken out of the water

A lot of women have had amazing and positive experiences with a water birth, but it is not for everyone. Many of you are probably uncomfortable in the water, or maybe the risks outweigh the benefits in your case. It is a choice that is entirely up to you and what your gynaecologist suggests is the safest. Wanting to bring your baby into the world as happily and securely as possible is something that all mothers want. We hope that this helped a little in giving you another way to do so that you might not have known before.

FAQs about water birth delivery

Q1. How does the water tub influence birth?

Ans. The temperature of the water tub can be a potential risk if it is too high. If the water inside it is too hot, it can cause dehydration and overheating. Both of these things cause a risk to your baby too. Make sure that the temperature is below 97 Fahrenheit and that you are nicely hydrated. When you look for facilities that have the option for a water birth, make sure that their pool is correctly equipped for such things.

Q2.How do babies breath in a water birth delivery?

Ans. In case of water birth, babies breath the same way they were breathing inside the womb, through the umbilical cord. Usually, nasal or oral breathing is triggered in babies when they feel the change in the environment as they come out. However, in water birth, the conditions are so similar inside and outside of the mother’s body, that this instinct is not triggered immediately. The nurse or doctor will pull the baby out of the tub and then they will start breathing normally.

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