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The Basics of Water Birth

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Water Birth Risks

Here are some of the rare problems that could happen while water birthing:

  • You or your baby could get an infection.
  • The umbilical cord could snap before your baby comes out of the water.
  • Your baby’s body temperature could be too high or too low.
  • Your baby could breathe in bath water.
  • Your baby could have seizures or not be able to breathe.

“It’s important to emphasize the ‘rare’ part. But these are the sorts of outcomes that are severe, like drowning,” says Jeffrey Ecker, MD, who co-wrote the ACOG committee's opinion on water births.

Are You a Good Water Birth Candidate?

Some factors may keep you out of the running for a water birth. You shouldn’t try it if:

  • You’re younger than 17 or older than 35.
  • You have complications like preeclampsia or diabetes.
  • You’re having twins or multiples.
  • The baby is in the breech position.
  • The baby is premature.
  • You’re having a really big baby.
  • You need to be constantly monitored and it can’t be done in the tub.
  • You have an infection.

Water Birth Precautions to Take

If you’re thinking about a water birth, talk to your health care professional early in your pregnancy to find out if it’s a service the hospital provides. If so, who will manage your labor and delivery? You may need to find a midwife instead of an OB-GYN.

If it’s not done in a hospital near you, you may have to go to a birthing center or do it at home.

Regardless of where you decide to deliver, having a water birth means you should ask questions about how the labor and delivery are done. Things to look for:

  • You have an experienced health care professional to help you through the labor and delivery.
  • High standards are kept to ensure the tub is clean and well-maintained.
  • Proper infection control measures are in place.
  • You and your baby are being properly monitored while in the tub as required.
  • There’s a plan to get you out of the tub as soon your doctor, nurse, or midwife says it’s time.
  • The water temperature is well-regulated, usually between 97 to 100 F. 
  • You drink water during the birth to avoid dehydration.

Getting into a warm bath too early might slow your labor.

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