During a water birth, the expectant mother brings her child into the world in a pool filled with water. A birth can take place fully or partly in the water. For many mothers-to-be, a water birth is associated with less pain and stress than a conventional birth, as the warm water has a relaxing effect and the duration of the birth is usually shortened. For the baby, a water birth means a gentler transition from the warmth of the womb to the light of the world compared to a normal birth.

Advantages of a birth in water

Both the mother and the newborn can benefit from positive effects of a water birth:

  • The warm water can help relax tissue and muscle and thus reduce pain
  • A birth in water often takes less time
  • Lower risk of a perineal tear or an episiotomy
  • Easier to change position during the delivery
  • Less birth stress for the newborn

Requirements for a water birth

For a water birth, the following requirements must be fulfilled to keep risks for the woman and her child as low as possible:

  • The mother must be healthy
  • The pregnancy must be risk-free and without complications
  • There must have been no infections or bleeding in late pregnancy
  • A water birth is not recommended for multiple births
  • The baby must not be in a breech position

Water birth process

Like for a conventional birth, the usual admission examinations are performed before a water birth. An infusion is inserted into the pregnant patient to allow medications to be administered quickly in an emergency.

To prevent the water from being contaminated by bowel movements, the mother-to-be is given an enema to empty the rectum. The pregnant patient can then decide for herself at what time she wants to climb into the birthing pool and can also leave it again at any time if she is feeling uncomfortable. The birthing pool is larger than a normal bathtub and is fitted with various handles and supports so that the mother-to-be can always adopt a comfortable position. The birthing pool is filled to around the patient’s navel with warm water heated to between 34° and 36° degrees Celsius, without bubble bath or oils.

Both early and active labour can take place in water during the delivery. The midwife accompanies the birth at the edge of the pool. An experienced team supports the mother-to-be throughout the delivery. The child is monitored with a waterproof cardiotocograph. If the warm water increases relaxation and causes the contractions to become weaker, it can help to stand up briefly as the cooler ambient air has a stimulating effect and can accelerate the birth.

Shortly before and while the child’s head is coming out, the midwife performs perineal protection. An episiotomy is often unnecessary because the skin is very supple due to the warm water. After the birth, the baby is lifted from the water and placed on the mother’s abdomen. They can also be breastfed for the first time in the water. After the birth of the child in the birthing pool, the mother is washed and put to bed. The child's umbilical cord is cut, the baby is cleaned and then the necessary initial nursing care is provided before the child is taken back to the mother. The afterbirth and care of the woman then takes place directly in her room.

You can find more information on the process of a natural birth here.

What are the risks of a water birth?

Unpredictable emergencies present the biggest risk for the mother-to-be and the child during a water birth. Although an experienced team is always on hand and can step in immediately in an emergency, the transfer of the mother-to-be from the pool takes valuable time, which can be crucial in such cases. In certain cases, the diving reflex may be absent in the newborn, causing it to swallow water with its first breath. Water contamination (germs in the water, faecal flora from the mother) can cause infections in the newborn.

Contamination in the water can cause skin infections in the mother as the skin’s resistance is reduced by being in the warm water. We will be happy to answer all of your questions about water births. Contact us online or arrange a personal meeting.