Guidelines for Water Births

When planning water births, whether it be an assisted or unassisted birth, several factors must be monitored. A birth companion should be responsible for evaluating these conditions to ensure the health and safety of the mother and child.

Foremost among these are:

Water Temperature

In water births, the temperature of the pool should remain between 89.6 to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 32-37 degrees Celsius. This ensures that the mother's core temperature does not rise to a level which would endanger the baby.

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Amount of Water

The water level should not be so deep that a birth companion cannot see clearly to the bottom. An increased water depth will also make it difficult for the mother to stabilize her position, as her body will tend to float away.

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Degree of Immersion

The birth companion should monitor how much of the mother's body is under water. It may be beneficial to change positions or remove extremities from the water to increase comfort and labor progress.

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Water Quality

It is important to maintain the water quality so that the mother and birth companions are able to visualize the baby and assess the progression of labor. If the water becomes too murky, it will be impossible to ascertain whether the umbilical cord is around the baby's neck or other such factors.

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Duration of Immersion

The most critical factor for waterbirths is not to enter the tub or birthing pool too early. Studies have shown prolonged immersion can lower the level of oxytocin in the body, which can then slow labor.

Dr. Odent's research has intimated a correlation between longer labours in women immersed before dilating 5 cm and levels of hormone secretion. Upon entering the water, an oxytocin surge occurs, which increases uterine contractions and facilitates cervix dilation and cervix effacement. After 90-120 minutes, this effect wanes and early labor can slow.

Taking breaks from the water, especially if the mother desires to enter the pool in the early stages of labor, can counteract this effect.

In waterbirths where the mother chooses to have more than one birth companion or a doula present, a specific individual should be designated to ensure that the above guidelines are followed.

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Page Last Modified by Catherine Beier, MS, CBE

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