Why a Water Birth May Not Be Right for You

Any woman can choose to have a water birth but, depending on the pregnancy, it may not always be the best option. Find out the reasons why.

Some birthing choices are easy to make; others take more research and consideration. Luckily, there are a variety of birthing options -- there isn't one that is best for everyone. Water birth is increasing in availability and popularity, but it is still appeals to just some women. Before deciding you want to have a water birth, consider what kind of birth experience you want. Weigh the positives and the negatives. How you give birth is a very personal decision, but a water birth might not be right for you if...

Woman looking down at belly
Ericka McConnell

You Have Medical Restrictions

First and foremost, women with high-risk pregnancies should not attempt water birth. The pregnancy complications that rule out a water birth are few but serious. "A woman with a history of difficult labors or births such as a previous shoulder dystocia shouldn't consider it," warns Sharon Mikol, M.D., an ob-gyn practicing in Cleveland. Your doctor or midwife will assess your past and current pregnancies to help you determine if water birth is a good fit for you. But women with "medical problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or a seizure disorder should only consider water birth in a hospital setting and with experienced practitioners. Multiple births are not good candidates for water birth," Dr. Mikol says. You should also not have a water birth if:

  • You go into labor before 37 weeks
  • You're expecting more than one baby
  • You're severely overweight
  • Your labor has not started on its own
  • Your blood pressure is elevated
  • Your baby shows signs of distress
  • You have unexplained bleeding or postpartum hemorrhage
  • Your water broke and the amniotic fluid is bloody or contains signs of your baby's first bowel movement

You Are Squeamish

By the end of labor, the water will get murky from blood, urine, and fluids exiting the womb and vagina. Urine and feces are an unavoidable part of birth. Although it may not bother you to sit in the tub with urine, sitting with poop might, though if you do defecate into the pool, your birth partner or midwife will quickly clean it out. If a woman "doesn't feel comfortable in the presence of bodily fluids and waste, [or] isn't comfortable with others being present while she is in the tub, water birth is not a good choice," Dr. Mikol says. Christy Dorff, a mother of two from Mesa, Arizona, who attempted a water birth, reaffirms that "after delivery, the water does get quite chunky and colorful."

  • Download and Write Your Personal Birth Plan

Modesty Is Your Policy

There will be people -- doctors, midwives, nurses, family -- in attendance while you're in the tub. If you're not ready to let your lady business be everybody's business and it makes you blush to think about sitting partially (or completely nude) for an extended amount of time, avoid a water birth.

Pain Is Not Your Game

Water birth means that you won't be using any pain medication with your delivery, so epidurals are not an option. "Anyone who needs an epidural or anyone who has received narcotic pain relievers, who is dizzy, drowsy, or not completely alert is not a candidate for water birth," Dr. Mikol says. The water presents problems with taping the epidural catheter and preventing it from coming out, and it also compromises a woman's ability to get in and out of the tub easily and quickly. Marra Francis, M.D., a gynecologist practicing in San Antonio, says that "epidurals can only be administered by anesthesiologists; therefore, women having a water birth at a birthing center or at home would have to transfer their care to a hospital to receive an epidural or IV medication for pain control." Some women and midwives feel the water acts as a "liquid epidural," but the labor will not be painless. If you do not want to feel pain and discomfort, water birth is not for you. Make the choices that work best for you, your family, and your body.

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

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