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You may be considering using water for pain relief during the first stage of your labor or having a waterbirth. Greenville Midwifery Care & Birth Center is excited to offer these options in a safe, family-centered maternity care environment.

Benefits of Water
Waterbirth is the process of giving birth in a tub of warm water. Some women choose to labor in the water and get out for delivery. Other women stay in the water for the delivery as well. The theory behind waterbirth is that since the baby has already been in the amniotic fluid sac for nine months, birthing into a similar environment is gentler for the baby and less stressful for the mother.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, midwives and a growing number of obstetricians believe that reducing the stress of labor and delivery will reduce fetal complications. Waterbirth should always occur under the supervision of a qualified health care provider.

Benefits for Mother

  • Warm water is soothing, comforting, relaxing.
  • In the later stages of labor, the water has been shown to increase the woman’s energy.
  • Buoyancy lessens mother's body weight, allowing free movement and positioning. Buoyancy promotes more efficient uterine contractions and improved blood circulation resulting in better oxygenation of the uterine muscles, less pain for the mother, and more oxygen for the baby.
  • Immersion in water often helps lower high blood pressure caused by anxiety.
  • The water seems to reduce stress-related hormones, allowing the mother’s body to produce endorphins which serve as pain-inhibitors.
  • Water causes the perineum to become more elastic and relaxed, reducing the incidence and severity of tearing and the need for an episiotomy and stitches.
  • As the laboring woman relaxes physically, she is able to relax mentally with greater ability to focus on the birth process.
  • Since the water provides a greater sense of privacy, it can reduce inhibitions, anxiety, and fears.

Benefits for Baby

  • Provides an environment similar to the amniotic sac.
  • Eases the stress of the birth thus increasing reassurance and sense of security.

Who can use water for labor and birth?
You and your baby must fit the following criteria for water labor and/or birth:

  • Be generally healthy without major complications of pregnancy
  • Pregnant with only one baby and the baby is presenting head first
  • Be at least 37 weeks pregnant
  • Mother must have a BMI of less than 40 and follow weight gain recommendations for pregnancy
  • Certain women attempting VBAC may use water

Frequently asked questions

Q. Will my baby or I become overheated?
A. You should feel comfortable in the water, but not too hot. Your midwife or nurse will check the water temperature regularly while you are in the water during labor and/or birth.

Q. What are the risks of infection?
A. Current evidence indicates there is no increased risk of infection with waterbirth. In fact, some data demonstrates less infection in mothers and babies who have labored or birthed under water. There are strict guidelines for keeping the water clean during labor and for cleaning the bath/pool to minimize the possibility of infection.

Q. Will the baby inhale water?
A. Under normal circumstances, babies take their first breath out of the water. If you choose to stay in the water to birth, your baby will be gently and immediately lifted out into the air. Your baby's head will then be kept above the water so that breathing can start and inhalation of water can be prevented.

For more information on waterbirth and the latest reach studies, visit www.thecochranelibrary.com.