What You Don’t Know About Water Births

Water-birthFor the newbie mom, terms such as -labour’ -birthing plans’ -dilating’ -cervix’ and -water birth’ are totally foreign. A birthing plan gives the new mother (or couple) the opportunity to decide on how they would prefer to give birth.

Since the 1960s, when the benefits of a water birth were first investigated, a number of forward thinking and liberal moms-to-be took to this new and revolutionary idea. The first studies were conducted by Igor Charkovky. Towards the end of the 1960s, a French obstetrician, Frederik Leboyer began offering the option of water births to pregnant mothers.

The water birth option showed to have several benefits for both mother and child. The warm water  in the birthing pool is able to alleviate, or reduce the stress of birth, and also lessen pain felt by mom during labour.

At first the medical community was sceptical about this -new age’ birthing method and only trained midwives were confident enough to encourage water birth. As a rsult, the practice was carried out mainly during home births. Today, professionals in the medical community have come to realise the many benefits and advantages and as such, a large number of hospitals offer the choice of water or regular birthing. Many South African obstetricians and midwifes have also shown their support for water birthing by setting up facilities that make this possible around the country. 

Home water births are also popular. Such a birth should be assisted by trained midwives who are equipped with all the necessary equipment to carry out and oversee the birthing process. In essence, all that is required during a water birth is a tub — which is big enough to accommodate mom and baby. Some families may prefer to include the whole family during the process However, witnessing a birth may be traumatic for younger children.



  • A great number of women do not consider childbirth to be a medical condition, and prefer not to be admitted into a maternity ward or hospital to give birth.
  • Babies float in water from the day of conception, therefore water births make the transition from womb to the world far less traumatic — since baby will be leaving his or her water world only to be enveloped by warm waters on arrival. Since childbirth is a traumatic experience for a newborn, a relaxed and less painful water birth may prove to have long term benefits for both mother and child.
  • The warm waters of the birthing bath will soothe the aches and pains commonly associated with active labour. For this reason, mothers who choose the water birth route need no pain medication — such as  during labour, such as epidurals. Another advantage of the warm waters is the perineum is more supple which reduces the risk of skin tears during birth, which in turn eliminates the need for an episiotomy.
  • A water birth offers far too many advantages not to be considered and for the couple who is considering this type of birthing process, various South African websites, such as, offer useful information relating to water birth, along with personal accounts from mothers who have chosen to take this route.



  • One of the most worrying disadvantages of a water birth is the increased risk of infection. However, midwives as well as establishments which cater for water births thoroughly ensure that birth tubs are disinfected both before and after use. This reduces the risk of contracting infections.
  • The blood stream of the mother can receive water and the “theoretical risk of water embolism” can occur.
  • Although midwives are trained in delivering babies, they aren’t always equipped to handle a breach or distressed baby. To avoid complications, a doctor will advise against a water birth if the mother has diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease. Mothers with transmittable diseases like herpes should not have a water birth, either.
  • Once the baby is delivered, the placenta follows soon afterwards. When this happens the mother needs to move out of the water. The midwife needs to make sure they monitor the mothers blood loss, to make sure that major problems don’t arise as a result

However, the fact remains, birth is a personal experience. An expectant mother or couple should be able to discuss the different options which are available to them and write their own birthing plan before hand. Mothers need to be aware however, that there are cases were a water birth is not the right option, such as is the case when:

  • the mother or baby is at risk either because of a pre-existing medical condition,
  • if the pregnancy is considered to be high risk,
  • or if the baby is breech.

This means that couples need to be flexible when planning a water birth. Couples need to prepare themselves for an alternative plan should things not work out as planned.

In the United Kingdom, a water birth is not considered to be a birthing alternative but the norm! Midwives and obstetricians who have come to accept the benefits of this birthing method, always have the necessary equipment on hand, such as oxygen, vacuum and suctions should there be a need for them. Before D-Day, caregivers will discuss in detail the procedure and moms and dads will feel at ease knowing that they are in good hands.

If you share the same view with so many modern moms, that child birth is not an illness and woman should not be restricted to a bed during labour – explore the possibilities of a water birth and experience the bliss of tranquil and natural labour.


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