Is A Water Birth Safe? Yes, Unless You Suffer From These 7 Risk Factors

Ad failed to load

Few things in life are as readily stress-relieving as a soak in the tub. And for years, some expectant women have used the inherent relaxing qualities of water to make the labor and birthing process more peaceful. But is a water birth safe for both mom and baby?

Before diving into the safety of this modern birth method, it’s important to know what a water birth is. According to the American Pregnancy Association, a water birth involves a mother giving birth in a tub of, you guessed it, warm water. The APA notes that some mothers will labor in the water and get out for the delivery, while others stay in the tub for the entire birthing process. Sounds pretty relaxing right?

As water births grow in popularity, it’s important to look into the safety of this birthing method. And, as is with many pregnancy topics, the reviews are mixed. A 2014 statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists declares that water immersion during the initial stages of labor is reportedly safe and may help decrease labor pain. ACOG also noted, however, that the safety and efficacy of immersion in water during the second stage of labor have not been established. In fact, there may not be any benefits to delivering your child in this way. (It should be noted that the American Association of Birth Centers was concerned that the ACOG and AAP opinion statement did not adequately account for water births attended by skilled midwives.)

Ad failed to load

Although more research on water births is needed for conclusive results, there have been cases of babies getting a deadly infection after water birth or nearly drowning from breathing in tub water. Underwater delivery may also cause difficulties in the baby’s regulation of body temperature, as well as an increased potential for damage to the umbilical cord.

But don’t let this doom and gloom totally dissuade you from considering a water birth if you’re interested. For instance, certified doula Christine Strainhas tells me in an interview that she had great success with water births for her clients.

Ad failed to load

“From a doula perspective, every client I have supported through water birth has loved the experience,” she says. “I think waterbirth is a great option that should be more widely available in hospitals.” She does acknowledge, however, that water births are not for everyone.  

“Not every woman who desires a water birth will end up having one, so it is important to be flexible and open to the possibility that hey may not actually birth in the water.”

With all of this in mind, it is up to the mother and her medical team to decide if a water birth is the best fit. There are, however, some situations in which a water birth is a definite no-go. Here are seven cases  in which a pregnant woman may be unable to give water birth.

Ad failed to load

1She Has Gestational Diabetes Or Diabetes

According to the Evidence Based Birth study on water births, women who have gestational diabetes may need to leave the tub to avoid an increased risk of shoulder dystocia, a scenario in which the baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone during delivery. The midwife may need the mother out of the water to help shift positions so the baby may be safely delivered.

2She's Having Twins Or Breech Babies

Bill & Vicki T/Flickr

If you’re having multiples or your baby is breech, then a water birth may not be the best option for you. The Evidence Based Birth study concludes that there is not yet enough data on the safety of choosing a water birth for in these cases, so you may want to err on the side of caution.

3She Has Herpes

According to the American Pregnancy Association, if the mother has herpes, a water birth may not be recommended because the virus can be transferred in the water. Mothers with the virus should discuss birthing safety with their healthcare provider to lessen the risk of transference.

Ad failed to load

4She Goes Into Preterm Labor

Natalia Wilson/Flickr

Again, the American Pregnancy Association does not recommend mothers with preterm labor to attempt a water birth. And according to the Mayo Clinic, infants who are born prematurely may experience problems with breathing and underdeveloped organs, so they may require more immediate medical care during and after their birth.

5She Has A Ruptured Membrane

If you have a ruptured membrane, you may be prone to an increased risk of infection, according to the ACOG’s Committee Opinion on water births. In this case, your healthcare provider may suggest a more traditional birth.  

6She Experience An Abundance Of Meconium

Sander van der Wel/Flickr

If a large amount of meconium appears in the tub, it may indicate that the baby is stressed and likely to gasp underwater, according to the Evidence Based Birth study. And according to ACOG, the risk of a baby aspirating underwater is one of the greatest concerns of water births, due to the risk of drowning or near drowning.

Ad failed to load

7She Suffers From Toxemia

ACOG does not recommend mothers with toxemia or preeclampsia use water birth method. Preeclampsia is defined by the Mayo Clinic as an elevation in blood pressure that can have serious complications for both the mother and baby. If you have this condition, you will need to discuss the safest way to deliver your baby with your healthcare provider.  

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

21 Moms Share The Most Surprising Part About Having A C-Section

Honestly, I don't think we, as a culture, talk about C-sections nearly enough, especially considering so many mothers experience them. And because of a number of factors, the little we do talk about it always seems to be a familiar narrative: "It's n…
By Jamie Kenney

13 Yummy Instant Pot Recipes To Make Under 30 Minutes

A Instant Pot seems to be the must-have appliance in every kitchen these days. If you are anything like me and never knew the beauty of a Instant Pot, you are about to have your life changed. Basically, you put some ingredients into a pot, set the te…
By Kristin Manna

9 Things The First Six Months Of Motherhood Will Teach You About Your Baby

Personally, the first six months of motherhood was a mixed bag. I learned some harsh lessons about myself that made taking care of my baby seem overwhelming. For example, I was clueless, and no amount of research could help me feel like anything but …
By Steph Montgomery

These Photos Of North West Then & Now Will Take You On A Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane

When Kim Kardashian welcomed her first daughter, North West, with her husband, Kanye West, in 2013, her whole life was changed. The social media and reality TV star became a mom for the first time and her Instagram presence took a very adorable turn.…
By Casey Suglia

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

This Is What It Means If Your Pregnancy Test Changes Overnight

The time between when a woman suspects she might be pregnant and when it is confirmed for sure is the longest of her life. Regardless of whether you are hoping for a positive or a negative result, the odds are good that you are sweating bullets when …
By Shannon Evans

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack