Water Births Perfectly Safe According to New Study

A recent study has found no evidence to support the idea that water births could cause harm to baby. Actually, a water birth can be totally safe.

Water Births Perfectly Safe According to New Study ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

If you're worried about an upcoming water birth, or weighing up your delivery options, you can breathe easier. A recent study from Oregon State University found no evidence that water births come with increased risk. Indeed, according to data from over 6,500 midwife-assisted water births between 2004 and 2009, children born by water birth tend to do just fine.

The findings, which were published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health, indicated that infants born via water birth did not show lower Apgar scores or require hospitalization post-birth. The research also found no increased risk for hospitalization in the first six weeks of the infant's life.

Is a water birth right for me?

But all this does not mean that water births shouldn't be carefully monitored.

"The findings suggest that water birth is a reasonably safe, low-intervention option for women who face a low risk of complications during the birthing process," study lead author Marit Bovbjerg, Ph.D., said in a release. "These are decisions that should be made in concert with a medical professional."

It's worth noting that most of the water birth cases studied for this purpose were assisted by certified professional midwives, which might explain why outcomes were so positive. It should go without saying that any birth should be handled by a profesional—but this study stresses the importantance of using a trained, certified midwife to reduce the risk of complications.

Also worth noting? Women who gave birth in water did show a slightly greater risk of pereniel tearing—with an increased risk of 11 percent—but the study's authors believe this risk might be outweighed by the positives associated with water births.

"For some women, that potential risk of tearing might be worth taking if they feel they will benefit from other aspects of a water birth, such as improved pain management," Bovbjerg said. "There is no one correct choice. The risks and benefits of different birthing options should be weighed carefully by each individual."

Laboring vs. giving birth in water

One other thing to consider: the study's conclusions seem to contradict what the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest, which is in support of laboring in water, but against giving birth while immersed.

To that point, study co-author Melissa Cheyney said: "Our findings suggest that water birth is a reasonably safe option for low-risk women, especially when the risks associated with pharmacologic pain management, like epidural anesthesia, [which can decrease blood pressure, slow the baby's heart rate or even cause difficulty breathing, according to the Mayo Clinic] are considered."

Related: Water Birth Safety: The FYI Every Pregnant Woman Should Read