Everything There Is to Know about Water Birth

Water birth is an effective way to relieve the mother-to-be’s pain during childbirth. Since its risk is minimal, it’s an effective form of natural birth.
Everything There Is to Know about Water Birth

Last update: 24 March, 2020

In recent years, more and more women are opting to have different types of births. Thus, many pregnant women decide to give birth at home or decide to have water births. In fact, water birth is an option that’s becoming more popular, although not many health centers allow it or have the necessary equipment for it.

In this article, we invite you to learn more about water birth, including its benefits and issues to consider.

Water birth

A water birth.
Water birth allows the pregnant woman to be more in control and reduces pain.

According to the Midwives Association of Spain, “Immersion in hot water is an effective pain relief method during labor, especially during the last phase of the first stage of labor.” It consists of giving birth while the woman’s stomach is immersed in water.

Therefore, the primary goal of water birth is to relieve pain. Indeed, immersion in water is considered a non-pharmacological treatment of pain that allows the pregnant woman to be in more control.

This method was first studied in the United Kingdom. Experts concluded that it’s so beneficial that bath immersion for this procedure should be available in all hospitals and clinics.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in most countries. In other words, public hospitals don’t have specific birth pools nor the equipment, such as wireless cardiotocography systems.

What a water birth consists of

A newborn coming out of the water.
You must make sure there’s adequate medical equipment to examine the baby at birth.

Firstly, to opt for this type of childbirth, it’s necessary to have the required equipment, as well as the presence of an obstetrician and midwife.

  • The temperature of the birth pool should be 98.6°F. If the temperature is lower, the woman may not relax. Conversely, if it’s higher, it may be counterproductive. It isn’t recommended for the pregnant woman to remain in the water for more than 90 minutes at a time. Thus, she must exit and re-enter.
  • The water should cover her stomach. In other words, it should reach her chest.
  • Moreover, it’s best for her to get inside the birth pool when she’s between 1.18 and 1.96 inches dilated. However, there’s no evidence on whether it’s best at one time or another. Immersion is indicated for the dilation stage. Therefore, many prefer to not remain submerged during delivery.
  • The necessary equipment must be on hand. For example, a wireless monitor to see if the baby is healthy. If this is the case, the specialist can ask the mother if she wants to have her baby in the birth pool or not.
  • If the mother chooses to remain submerged, there’s no evidence that this type of delivery is better than childbirth out of water. In any case, you should know that the baby breathes through the umbilical cord until the moment when it’s cut. Therefore, there’s no risk of infant drowning.

The benefits of a water birth

A woman dilating in a birth pool.

According to the International Confederation of Midwives, the benefits of staying submerged during the dilation stage are the following:

  • Better perineal, vaginal, and cervical relaxation.
  • It facilitates mobility and adjustment of positions that favor fetal descent (squatting or kneeling).
  • Hydrotherapy can shorten the dilation stage.
  • The fetus benefits from a relaxed mother, as this maximizes placental oxygenation.
  • It also facilitates relaxation due to weightlessness. In addition, the mild vasodilation that occurs in the water lowers blood pressure and increases the maternal pulse, causing an increase in oxygenation of the uterus and fetus.
  • Regarding delivery, water favors the baby’s transition from the amniotic fluid to the outside world.
  • In most cases, the relaxation and pain relief allows a natural birth without any anesthesia.

And what are the risks or disadvantages?

There are a few disadvantages, such as:

  • An increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage
  • If there are complications, the woman must come out of the water to receive medical attention
  • It may prove uncomfortable to get into and out of the water

We recommend this article: Vaginal Tears During Childbirth


Water birth seems to have more advantages than disadvantages. Nevertheless, it depends on each pregnancy and if it’s risky or there are complications. In this regard, the gynecologist will determine whether it’s advisable or not.

Moreover, water birth has another benefit. The mother-to-be is able to make decisions regarding how she wants to deliver her baby. This can make her much more self-confident during labor.

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    • Elizabeth R Cluett, Ethel Burns, “Immersion in water in labour and birth”, Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Apr 15; (2): CD000111.
    • Sonia Uceira-Rey et al. “Procedimiento de inmersión en el agua para el trabajo de parto en el Hospital da Barbanza”, Matronas Prof. 2015; 16(1): 12-17
    • Richmond H, “Women’s experience of waterbirth”, Practising Midwife, 6, 26-31, 2003.