The number of women opting for a water birth is on the rise, as each year more expectant mothers are choosing to birth their babies in the comfort of their own home. Even midwives and other birthing professionals are fully on board, encouraging women to birth the way that feels right for them.
But despite this, there are still a great number of water birth misconceptions and myths floating around. So to set things straight and put your mind at ease, here are the most common water birth myths debunked.
Myth #1: The baby can drown in the water
Immediately after birth the baby will still be connected to the placenta via the umbilical chord, and thus will still be receiving its oxygen supply while in the water. As soon as the baby is lifted out of the water, their natural instincts to draw breath will take over and the newborn will switch over from the foetal circulation to newborn circulation, causing it to pump blood into the lungs for the first time.
Remember, unborn babies are living in an amniotic fluid, so the transition from the womb to a warm water bath will be much more calming and feel more familiar than going straight from the womb to the open air.
Myth #2: You are more likely to experience tearing while in water
Many people believe the myth that it is more common to tear giving birth in water because there is no lubrication. But in fact, water births have lower rates of perineal trauma.
There is much evidence indicating that warm water can relax the pelvic floor muscles and soften the skin, which actually reduces the incidence and severity of tearing.
Myth #3: Babies are more likely to get infections
This is perhaps one of the most commonly believed myths on water births. But in reality the rate of infant infection reported in water births is less than .01%. Many experts believe the water could actually provide a barrier to infection by diluting any bacteria.
Myth #4: Water births are for everyone
Although many women who have had great success with water births will likely praise this method to no end, birthing in water may not be for everyone. Most women claim that the water reduced their pain by more than half, but pain is subjective and may feel worse for some women more than others.
It’s good to remember that birthing pools are a tool, rather than a mode of birth. Women can use the water as a pain reliever, but come and go from the pool if they feel it is not working for them. If you choose to use a pool during labour, it does not mean you have to deliver the baby under water as well; you can simply use it as a way of feeling calm, relaxing your muscles and using it to find more comfortable positions.
Myth #5: You can only have a home birth if you want to birth in water.
Many women who choose to have a water birth also wish to have a ‘natural birth’ at home, too. This is because water helps to relieve labour pains and improves discomfort by allowing the labouring woman to move freely while feeling buoyant in the water.
But you don’t have to give birth at home to have a water birth. In fact most hospitals and birthing centres offer high-tech, sterilised birthing tubs for women to choose to use. It is up to the expectant mother where she wishes to labour.