The Most Important Real Facts About Water Births
If you've ever thought-out a water birth, in which you experience either labor and delivery or just labor in a tub of warm water, read on. Giving birth under water may appeal to you because, in theory, it's considered to be less stressful for you and your baby. In addition, water births can often lessen the fetal complications that ensue during labor and delivery that take place in a bed. Still, since there are plenty of misconceptions about giving birth underwater, we asked Barbara Harper, R.N., founder of Water birth International, a nonprofit organization that helps make water births an available option for moms-to-be, and Michelle Collins, C.N.M., an assistant professor of nursing at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing who specializes in nurse-midwifery, to dispel some of the most common myths of giving birth underwater, which always be done under the watchful eye of an experienced health care provider.
Myth #1: Won't my baby and I be more susceptible to infection if I labor and give birth in the water?
Harper says: That's one of the most common misconceptions about water births. People worry that a mother may release stool in the bath, which will contribute to an increase in infection. And while about 40 to 50 percent of women will have stool come out in the water when the baby is descending and emerging, overall infection rates for water births are reported as less than .01 percent. In fact, some experts feel that the water provides a barrier to infection and dilutes the possible bacteria to the point where the concentration is too low to cause any harm.
Myth #2: I've heard you can't have a water birth when you get to a certain age.
Collins says: If you're perfectly healthy and there are reassuring signs that the baby is doing fine, you should be cleared to have a water birth. In fact, even if you've heard that women over the age of 35 shouldn't have one, there are no standard rules about water births, and this simply isn't true. Whether or not a water birth is possible would never be based solely on age. However, if your baby is breech, if you've been diagnosed with excessive bleeding or maternal infection, if you're having multiples, or if pre-term labor is expected, you'll have to discuss with your healthcare provider whether you're a candidate for a water birth.