Water Births ‘Provide Clear Benefits’ For Moms and Newborn Babies, Large Analysis Shows

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Water births provide “clear benefits” for healthy moms and their newborn babies, according to new research.

It showed that giving birth in a tub results in fewer medical interventions and complications during and after the birth than standard deliveries—as well as higher levels of satisfaction for the mum.

The large review of 36 previous studies also found that water births “significantly reduced” the use of epidurals, injected opioids, as well as pain and heavy bleeding after the birth.

A water birth involves using a birthing pool to achieve relaxation and pain relief, either exiting the pool for the birth, so the newborn can emerge into air to breathe, or remaining in the birthing pool and bringing the baby to the surface to start breathing.

The researchers wanted to compare the extent of healthcare interventions needed during and after labor between the two different types of water birth and to see if outcomes differed between a water birth and standard care not involving a birthing pool.

They analyzed 36 previous studies, published between 2000 and 2021, involving more than 150,000 women.

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The studies included a range of interventions and outcomes such as induced labour; artificial breaking of waters; use of epidurals; admission to intensive care, and breastfeeding.

Lead author Dr. Ethel Burns, of Oxford Brookes University, said the data analysis, published in BMJ Open, showed that a water birth, regardless of whether women birth in or out of the pool, “has clear benefits to women” in obstetric units, where most births take place and where healthcare interventions and complications are more likely than in midwife-led units.

And it increased the satisfaction levels of mothers, as well as the odds of them going home with an intact perineum.

It also resulted in less augmentation, episiotomy, and requirements for pharmacological analgesia.

The findings showed that there were more instances of umbilical cord breakage among water births, but the rate was still low: 4.3 per 1,000 births in water compared with 1.3 per 1,000 births with standard care. The researchers suggested that may be linked to pulling on the umbilical cord when the newborn is brought up out of the water.

“Water immersion provides benefits for the mother and newborn when used in the obstetric setting, making water immersion a low-tech intervention for improving quality and satisfaction,” said Dr. Burns.

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“It is an effective method to reduce pain in labour, without increasing risk,” she concluded.

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