‘Water Baby wants a Water Birth’, 27, from Johannesburg asks,

I’m currently 30 weeks pregnant, and I’m seeing both a gynae and a midwife. My midwife suggested that I should consider having a waterbirth, and I think they look really nice and peaceful but I’m nervous that my baby will drown or get an infection. What would you recommend?

I’m a big fan, and advocate, of water births for a number of reasons. Water helps tremendously with pain relief. The warmth helps you to relax, so you are less tense. Therefore, your body releases endorphins (natural painkillers and feel good hormones) which eases your labour pains and makes it easier to push.

You can move around nicely because you are buoyant, and I find that women feel a greater sense of privacy in water, reducing their inhibitions. A water birth also benefit your baby. I find babies born in a birthing pool are much calmer and relaxed, and this is most likely due to the fact that the water resembles the same environment as being in the womb, so the transition to the world is not as stressful.

There are some things to be cautious of – there is a risk of infection, your baby might not maintain proper body temperature, or your baby could breathe in the birthing water. These risks are not particularly common. It’s important that your midwife is a registered practitioner with experience in water births, and that they have strict standards with regards to infection control and cleaning the tub. It’s important that your midwife doesn’t keep your baby under the water for too long, to avoid your baby breathing in the water. It’s shown, however, that if your baby is not distressed at the time of birth, they will only take their first breath as you lift them out of the water. It’s also important that the water temperature is regulated between 36-40°C.

Discuss your concerns with your midwife, and I’m sure you’ll feel very reassured after you’ve spoken to her too. In my experience, when done properly and safely, a water birth results in lovely and calm deliveries. The babies and the moms are relaxed and quiet afterwards, and it is absolutely beautiful. Remember, though, that not all moms can have a water birth and your pregnancy has to be complication-free to make you eligible for one.

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