Water births are not more dangerous than usual deliveries, a study has revealed.
Women opting for the unconventional delivery actually get fewer agonising vaginal tears, according to University of Michigan scientists.
The team compared water births to births in a bed at two midwifery units in the US. Results showed no differences in complication rates.
Their findings add more evidence on the safety of pool births, which Meghan Markle reportedly wanted for the arrival of her son Archie in May 2019.
This year’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! winner Jacqueline Jossa gave birth to her first child, Ella Selina, in a birthing pool in 2015.
During the delivery, a baby is delivered in a water-filled tub rather than a bed. Many women also use it to relax during labour before giving birth.
In England, around one in ten mothers-to-be opt to have their babies this way. But in the US it is not as common. This is because health officials don’t recommend it because of a lack of conclusive evidence of its risks and benefits.
A study has debunked fears that water births are more dangerous than usual deliveries. The Duchess of Sussex was said to have wanted to give birth to Archie in a birthing pool
I’m A Celebrity winner and EastEnders star Jacqueline Jossa, 27, had a water birth with her first daughter, Ella Selina (pictured)
But Lisa Kane Low, senior author of the Michigan paper, said: ‘The long and short of it is that if you use proper techniques… the outcomes [of water births] are very good.’
Experts analysed 397 water births and 2,025 bed births. The results were published in the journal Birth.
Results showed there were no differences in rates of babies admitted to intensive cares or postpartum haemorrhage, when the mother bleeds heavily after birth.
It is difficult to measure how much blood has been lost in water. Therefore, pregnant women at high risk of bleeding are unlikely to be offered such births.
Women in the water group sustained fewer tears, which may be because the water helps with stretching of their vagina.
Dr Ruth Zielinski, study co-author, argued more facilities should offer water birth and have guidelines for implementing it.
Pregnant women may use birthing pools to help relax or ease pain
Few US hospitals or birth centers offer water births because of perceived risk to the newborn.
Guidelines released by the American Academy of Paediatrics and American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said in 2014 that women should not routinely be offered an underwater delivery.
WHAT IS A WATER BIRTH?
A water birth is when a baby is born using a deep bath or birthing pool.
Being in water during labour or birth is relaxing for mothers-to-be and may help with pain – however some pain relief is not offered.
The water can help support the mother’s weight, making it easier to move around and feel more in control during labour. It can help with back pain as well as stretching the vagina as the baby comes out.
Not all births are eligible for a water birth. A baby which is breech or preterm cannot be born in water, or twins or triplets. Mothers cannot have pre-eclampsia, and infection, high temperature or active herpes, for example.
Babies cannot drown when they are born in the water because it comes from the womb – where it survives in fluid – into the water of the pool. Once it is slowly brought up to the surface, it will take its first breathe and cannot be re-submerged.
The organisations said: ‘A woman who requests to give birth while submerged in water should be informed that the maternal and perinatal benefits and risks of this choice have not been studied sufficiently.’
However, in the UK, a water birth is an option for any woman with a low-risk pregnancy.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Royal College of Midwives say the evidence to support water births is not clear, but complications are rare.
There are certain guidelines that must be followed, such as rigorous cleaning of the tubs to ensure low-risk of infection.
The water temperature should be around body temperature to avoid the mother or baby getting too hot or cold, it is advised.
Professor Zielinski said it’s important not to re-submerge babies once they have been slowly lifted from the water because their lungs could fill fill with water.
When they are brought to the surface, they take their first breathe of air. Before that point, while still underwater, their oxygen supply comes from the mother through the umbilical cord.
Birthing pool are useful for women who feel anxious about birth because the water is relaxing. Around two in ten women in England use it during labour for this or to feel more comfortable during contractions.
There are some drawbacks – for example you cannot have some types of pain relief during a water birth such as an epidural.
Professor Zielinski said more studies are needed to understand the satisfaction level of women who have water births.