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Michele Hakakha, MD

Water Birth?

I’m thinking about having a water birth. Is there anything I should consider first?

A water birth — typically giving birth in a tub of warm water — sounds lovely and relaxing, both for you and baby (who doesn’t enjoy a warm bath?). In fact, proponents say that having your baby go from the uterus, where she’s surrounded by warm amniotic fluid, to a tub filled to a similar temperature is gentler and less stressful than a traditional birth.

But there is a big drawback here: When a baby takes her first full breath of air, it fills her lungs, closing off certain blood vessels while opening others. In short, that first cry you hear is a sign that your baby has started breathing through her lungs.  When a baby is born in water, it will take longer for that circulation of air to occur, and therefore longer for the baby to breathe on her own. This increases the risk of complications.

Women who are pregnant with multiples, those who are in preterm labor (more than two weeks before the scheduled due date), and those who have herpes, excessive bleeding, or a breech delivery should talk to their health care providers before considering a water birth because of the added risk.

Plus, more from The Bump:

What are some alternative birthing methods?

What's a birthing chair?

Can I give birth at home?