Many expecting mothers choose the water birth delivery method because it’s said to reduce the pain of labour and give a new baby a more calming entry into the world.
But a new report suggests that water births can be much more dangerous than the traditional delivery method, which involves mothers heading to the hospital as labour begins.
The report comes from researchers at the American Academy of Paediatricians and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, who found that there are no visible benefits to a water birth. In fact, the report says that there are serious risks to such a delivery method, including infections (from unclean water), serious bleeding, and child breathing problems. Of course, there is always the danger that a child may drown during a water birth.
The report pointed to one study which found that more than one in ten babies delivered by water birth were immediately admitted to special care units — suggesting something had gone seriously wrong during the delivery process.
Those who support water birth insist it requires mothers take fewer painkillers and provides babies with a more calming birth environment. Elizabeth Duff of the United Kingdom’s National Childbirth Trust says the report and its new guidelines are “scary and regressive” and part of American doctors’ tendency to “medicalise” more than their British counterparts.
Nevertheless, U.S. experts maintain that the “safety and efficacy of immersion in water during the second stage of labour has not been associated with maternal or foetal benefit … Given these facts and case reports of rare but serious adverse effects in the newborn, the practice of immersion in the second stage of labour underwater delivery should be considered an experimental procedure that should only be performed within the context of an appropriately designed clinical trial with informed consent.”