FFE Magazine

Doctors warn against birthing Underwater

Doctors warn against birthing Underwater

Studies suggest underwater births may not be as advantageous as believed.


Birthing pools are popular among mothers who want a more relaxed labour and delivery. However, a study by doctors groups said the procedure may not be as beneficial as originally thought.


Based on a review of literature conducted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the groups said that birthing underwater can lead to ‘rare but serious consequences’ for both baby and the mother.


‘Delivering underwater does not seem to have clear advantages’ said ACOG committee chairman Dr Jeffrey Ecker. The chairman added that birthing pools are primarily appealing because of their promise of relaxation. But patients should understand that ‘labouring in water is not the same as delivering underwater.’


Winthrop-University Hospital obstetrics and gynecology chair Dr Anthony Vintzileos agreed, adding that ‘The birthing process imposes the first life stress test for the unborn and perhaps it is the riskiest trip of our lives.


‘I see no reason to make it more risky by labouring or giving birth in the water.’


Mount Sinai Hospital director of maternal foetal medicine Dr Joanne Stone revealed that ‘the safety and benefit of immersion in water during the second stage, when a woman is pushing, has not been clearly demonstrated. In fact, there are some case reports of serious adverse outcomes for the newborn.’ This statement had been seconded by North Shore-LIJ Health System director Dr Victor Klein.


ACOG and AAP said that some problems linked to birthing underwater are:


  • risk of infection for mother and baby
  • difficulties in controlling the baby’s temperature
  • greater risk of umbilical cord damage
  • breathing problems
  • seizures
  • asphyxiation


The two groups cautioned clinics that practice water births to be have strict measures in place that will protect the mothers and babies. They should have clean and well-maintained tubs and immersion pools, have infection-control measures, proper equipment to monitor the health of the mother while immersed and a procedure in place when the mother needs to be removed from the tub.



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