What to Expect if You Want a Water Birth

A birth tub at Health Foundations Birth Center in St. Paul.

A birth tub at Health Foundations Birth Center in St. Paul.

Maybe you’ve been wondering about choosing a water birth or perhaps it’s an option you may not have considered before. Either way, we’ve got the answers to your questions about water birth.

What is a water birth like?

Most of the experience is up to you. Generally it is good to wait to get into the birth tub until you are 5cm dilated or greater or you have a good active labor pattern established.  Once in the birth tub, you can change positions to see what works for you (ie. squatting, floating), or get out for a while and walk around. You may like to have your birth partner join you in the or support you from outside the birth tub.

Some women choose to give birth in the water, while others labor in the tub but get out to actually give birth – babies don’t start breathing until they feel air on their face, being delivered into the water won’t harm them.

You will probably be advised to leave the tub to deliver the placenta – this is because some women feel faint during this final stage and this can become tricky if you remain in the water.

You will have a midwife on hand who will make sure the water stay at 37 degrees or below, check the progress of your labor and monitor you and your baby’s vital signs throughout.

Is it safe?

Both the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynacologists endorse the use of birth tubs for women without complicated pregnancies.

There is no reason why you should not opt for a water birth if you are:

a) healthy

b) 37 or more weeks pregnant

c) a ‘low-risk’ pregnancy

Your provider will be able to advise you whether a water birth is a suitable option for you.

Does it relieve pain?

There is evidence that women who have a water birth are less likely to need an epidural, and many women report feeling calmer, lighter, more easy to move and more at ease giving birth in the water.

Lying in warm water relaxes muscles and calms breathing, which can give the impression of pain relief without necessarily having a genuine effect.  However, just the perception of pain relief can make all the difference in the heat of the moment!

Are there things that are required if I want to be in the birth pool?

Health Foundations Birth Center requires specific lab tests to be done in pregnancy for woman who think they may want to labor or deliver in water.  The midwives will also discuss the risks of benefits of water birth and have you sign an informed consent. 

What if something goes wrong?

One thing to be aware of while planning your water birth is that when the time comes, all those plans might go out the window!

If your midwife has any concerns about you or your baby during a water birth, she may ask you to leave the pool.