Water birth perks

Water immersion during childbirth is naturally relaxing, can reduce labour pains and tearing. It is also associated with a lower rate of caesarean delivery, epidurals and the need for an episiotomy. With so many perks at work, could this be the right option for you?


Childbirth is tough, so anything that helps reduce the pain and relax you during labour is seriously worth looking into. For many women that’s increasingly becoming a water birth.

In England, about 30% of women giving birth plan to use water or a birth pool for coping with pain during labour, according to a survey by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Comparatively, only 6% of women give birth in a pool, opting to deliver in a bed or on a mat for the final stages, but they still get all the benefits of being in a pool right up to that point.

A 2014 review by BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth also found water immersion can reduce labour pain, and is associated with a lower rate of caesarean delivery and SUI symptoms at 42 days. In addition, both the Royal College of Obstetricians and Royal College of Midwives support “labouring in water for healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies.”

Providing you meet the criteria, you should be able to have a water birth in hospital, at a birthing centre or in your own home – bearing in mind your water system can handle the pressure or your living room has enough space to accommodate it.

If you’re interested, the first step is to talk to your midwife about your options. If your pregnancy is straightforward, with no complications than your decision should be respected – the circumstances you feel comfortable giving birth in is ultimately your choice.

Many hospitals have open days or evenings where you can view the facilities and attend a talk with a doctor or midwife in charge of the department, who will reveal the perks, pitfalls and process.

However, not all hospitals and maternity units have the facilities for water births, and it’s possible there may not be a midwife with experience of them on duty when you go into labour, so always have a plan B, C and often D, just in case.

Here’s why a water birth could be right for you…


Be under no illusion, water births don’t take away all pain, but if you are the kind of person who relaxes by taking a bath then it may seriously help you. For obvious reasons a water birth is relatively drug free. You can use gas and air, which is a mild pain reliever, but stronger pain relief such as pethidine or an epidural can’t be administered in water.


Not only is water warm and relaxing but the buoyancy of it helps you assume a more comfortable and effective birthing position, and decrease your body weight at what can be a really lethargic time. It also offers perineal support, which decreases the risk of tearing and an episiotomy.


The power of breathing during labour is everything. Get it right and it can lower your pumping heart rate and reduce the release of adrenalin, which can slow down your labour. Being in water can help you breath more calmly and you’re less likely to take short, shallow breaths, which can make the pain of contractions worse. In fact, it’s known to release the labour promotion hormone oxytocin, that stimulates labour contractions to be strong and regular. You may also release more endorphins, the body’s natural pain killer, helping you to keep calm and cope better with contractions.


You won’t get any medals for having a drug free birth but should it be your wish, water births are a wonderful solution and pain reliever. The sheer relaxation effects of water help alleviate pain. A 2014 Cochrane Review also found that immersion during the first stage of child birth reduces the use of epidurals. It is also associated with a lower rate of caesarean delivery and stress urinary incontinence symptoms 42 days after deliver.


Water births promote a midwife-led model of care, as you’ll have someone with you at all times to ensure your safety in the water. The birthing pool room also provides an enclosed, private space, where you are able to dim the lights, put on your own calming music and an aroma diffuser, helping you feel more relaxed, comfortable and in-tune with your labour. The set-up is more holistic than a hospital bed, and the spa-like surroundings make everything feel a bit less clinical. Partners can get in the pool too, which can help with comforting and cuddles, adding to the release of pain reducing endorphins.