Reasons to Give Birth in Water

Mom and newborn after water birth

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Water birth is becoming an increasing option for women in childbirth. Once water birth was relegated to only homebirth settings, now many hospitals and birth centers are providing on-site water birth tubs for use in labor and childbirth. (Though it should be noted that every facility has a different set of rules as to who can use the water birth tubs and how long.) 

Essentially, water birth involved sitting in a warm tub during at least a portion of the labor process; in some cases, it is possible to actually give birth in the water.

Why Women Choose a Water Birth

Many women have sought out childbirth in the water for a variety of reasons, including:

Less Pain

Water birth has been shown to be very effective at reducing pain. Some studies say that water birth is second to only the epidural in pain relief. Mothers who have given birth in the water swear by the reduction in pain.

Increased Relaxation

Water has long been known for its relaxing properties. After all, don't we often suggest a warm bath when someone says they are stressed? Calgon, anyone? Seriously, the warm water does the same thing in labor and childbirth, though often with a more dramatic effect. Relaxation is a great thing in childbirth.

Increased Mobility for Mom

When in water mom finds it easier to move because of the water. Her larger form is less encumbered. This movement can help speed labor or make for more effective contractions in some women. She is able to move her legs, squat, circle her hips -- all of which can help her feel less pain and help her baby move down in the pelvis.

If you are at risk of needing a C-section, however, being in a water bath can slow the time it takes to get you to surgery.

Decreases Use of Epidural Anesthesia

If you are looking to avoid an epidural, water birth is something that has been shown to decrease the need for pain medications.

1 Source
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  1. Mollamahmutoğlu L, Moraloğlu O, Ozyer S, et al. The effects of immersion in water on labor, birth and newborn and comparison with epidural analgesia and conventional vaginal deliveryJ Turk Ger Gynecol Assoc. 2012;13(1):45-49. doi:10.5152/jtgga.2012.03

Additional Reading
  • Cluett ER, Burns E. Immersion in water in labor and birth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD000111. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000111.pub3
  • Geissbuhler, V., Eberhard, J., (2000) Waterbirths: A comparative study, a prospective study on more than 2000 water births. Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy Sept-Oct; 15(5):291-300
  • Gentle Birth Choices Harper, Barbara, R.N., Ch. 6

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.