Water birth benefits debunked by the American College of pediatrics and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Looking at the available data, researchers compiled the effects of water births on early stage and late stage labor. They found that on average women who started their labor process sitting in a bath of warm water were often more relaxed, which led to less use of anaesthesia, including epidural, and often helped to reduce the time it took to deliver the baby. However, once in the later stages of labor the bath was not effective against perineal tears, and did not reduce the likelihood of the mother needing an assisted vaginal delivery or caesarean sections.
Water birth benefits are debunked further when the researchers go on to highlight the increase incidents of infection by those giving birth in tubs. For this reason water births should only be done in a setting where the tub can be properly cleaned and sterilized before the delivery begins. The water is also said to disrupt the baby’s ability to regulate its body temperature and cause shock upon being removed from the water. As well, there is a chance of complications due to the umbilical cord breaking up, and in extreme cases the newborn can drown. In short, the small benefits of water birth found at the beginning of a delivery are quickly overshadowed by the risks associated with the later stages of delivery and moments immediately after birth.
Those at the American College of Paediatrics release these findings knowing that water births are not very common, but they feel it is important to make sure that as many people are aware of the unique dangers it can present to the mother and the baby. Immersing the expectant mother in water for the initial steps of birth is a good idea, but once the delivery reaches the final stages it is best to raise the mother out of the water. As well, it is important that any expecting mothers who have even the smallest chance of a complication avoid water birth, as the effects are rare but often very dangerous. Any complications that occur during the delivery would only be escalated by the tub, and so the minor benefits are not even worth considering.
The sample of water births used to reach these conclusions was small, but the danger of water births comes from complications that are both rare and potentially disastrous, meaning that even though things almost never go wrong, if they do it almost guaranteed to be very bad indeed. However, with the right precautions and keeping the difference between labouring underwater and birthing underwater in mind, it is possible to integrate warm water into the delivery with positive results.
With many water birth benefits debunked, Tonse Raju of the NICHD agrees with the researchers of the ACP when they say that there are some benefits of water labouring has effects that benefit both the mother and baby to be born, but actually birthing the baby from underwater invites serious consequences.
By Daniel O’Brien