by Penny Simkin, PT; et al
The idea of water birth appeals to some expectant parents as a relaxing and gentle way to bring a baby into the world, and they seek out a birthplace and caregiver that support this option. Many caregivers who attend births at homes and at freestanding birth centers (unaffiliated with a hospital) are comfortable with water births. Sometimes a woman who hadn’t planned ahead for a water birth discovers during labor that a bath is so relaxing and helpful for relieving pain, she doesn’t want to leave the water when she’s ready to push. If she’s giving birth in a hospital, however, she might not have a choice. Although laboring in the bath is common in most U.S. and Canadian hospitals, few have policies that allow women to give birth in water. Many hospital administrators (and caregivers) have the following objections to water births:
- Concerns about the baby’s safety
- The caregiver’s need to master new techniques to facilitate birth positions and to protect the woman’s perineum
- The physical agility needed by the caregiver to deliver the baby
- Extra difficulty managing a difficult or complicated birth
- Other practical concerns, such as extra precautions for infection control (for example, shoulder-length gloves for caregivers and nurses) and insufficient room around the tub for access to the woman
Although these concerns can be addressed, few U.S. and Canadian hospitals do so. If you’re interested in learning more about water birth, visit Waterbirth International.
© copyright Parent Trust for Washington Children with permission from its publisher Meadowbrook Press.