A water birth is the process of giving birth in a tub of warm water. Some think the technique provides benefits for both baby and mother. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are releasing new recommendations today on laboring and delivering in water. They say the technique may provide some benefit to a woman in the early stages of labor, but does not provide health benefits for the baby.
"The consensus statement is now stating that until we can prove that it is safe that it's best to do underwater delivery of the baby only under research protocol," said Cleveland Clinic Obstetrician Dr, Rebecca Starck.
The AAP and ACOG say undergoing the first stage of labor in a birthing pool may offer some advantages to mom, such as decreased pain and shorter labor. However, delivering underwater has no proven benefit to mother or baby. It may even pose serious and sometimes fatal health risks.
Researchers conclude underwater births should be considered an experimental procedure and not performed unless part of an appropriately designed study.
There is not an official count on how many babies are delivered in water in the United States, but it is increasingly common for hospitals to offer birthing pools or tubs to help pregnant women relax during labor.
Starck has this message for women considering a water birth.
"Do their research. Be careful that if they choose a water birth to go to a center where they are providing strict guidelines and protocols and realize that at any point in time your plan may change because we feel that it is in the best interest of both you and the baby," she said.
The report recommends that hospitals or birth centers choose low-risk candidates for immersion during labor, keep tubs clean, monitor women appropriately and be able to move them out of the water quickly if a problem occurs. Read more here.