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Doctors Report: Water Births are not Safe

Update Date: Mar 21, 2014 10:14 AM EDT
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Women who want a more natural birth often turn to water births, which occur in a bath tub full of lukewarm or hot water. Advocates of natural births have claimed that the water can alleviate and shorten the pains of labor. However, a new report conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Fetus and Newborn and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) concluded that water births are dangerous for both the mother and newborn.

For this study, the team analyzed available data on water births. They separated the effects of water birth during early stage labor and late stage labor. Based on the data, the researchers stated that during early stage labor, sitting in a tub of water could help pregnant women relax. This phase was also tied to fewer epidurals and other anesthesia use, as well as a shorter labor. When the early stage transitioned to the late stage of labor, the researchers reported that giving birth while immersed in water did not reduce the number of perineal trauma or tears. It also did not reduce the women's likelihood of requiring assisted vaginal deliveries or Cesarean sections.

The report also found that water births were tied to an increased risk of infections. When a newborn is born underwater, the baby's ability to regulate his/her body temperature becomes jeopardized. Furthermore if the umbilical cord breaks apart unexpectedly, it could lead to hemorrhaging and shock. In the rare case, the newborn could end up drowning.

Even though water births are not very popular, experts still wanted to stress that water births could lead to very dangerous situations for the mother and child. However, the doctors from both groups also admitted that no one truly knows how risky these types of deliveries are. In a 2009 study, researchers had reviewed 12 small clinical trials that examined the potential risks of giving birth in a tub. The researchers had concluded that giving birth in a tub was not any more dangerous than routine labor on a bed. However, only three of the 12 studies that the researchers analyzed involved giving birth under water.

The report was published in the Pediatrics.

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