Pros and Cons of Water Birth

Considering a water birth? Here's what you need to know.
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ByMichele Hakakha, MD
May 2017

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 baby has started breathing through her lungs. When baby is born in water, it will take longer for that circulation of air to occur, and therefore longer for baby to breathe on her own. This increases the risk of complications.

Women who are pregnant with multiples, those who are in preterm labor 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.

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