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Water birth

Related Terms

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Background

  • Water birth is the practice of undergoing labor or delivery while immersed in a tub of warm water. The water birthing tub may be used only for the first stage of labor (from the onset of contractions to the point where the cervix is fully dilated or open) or it may be used throughout labor and delivery. Water birth is a type of hydrotherapy, or balneotherapy, which uses immersion in water to reduce pain or to treat an illness.
  • Water birth may have been practiced for centuries around the world. There are reports that Japanese women have labored in the sea and that Finnish women have given birth in saunas. There are legends of South Sea islanders giving birth in shallow seawater and of Egyptian pharaohs being born in the water. There are reports that Dr. Igor Charkovsky may have researched water birth in Russia during the 1960s. The French obstetricians Frederick Leboyer and Michel Odent used water immersion during birth in the late 1960s. It was originally used for infants as a transition to a womb-like environment. It was subsequently used for women in labor for pain control and for delivery. The practice became popular in the 1980s, often chosen by women wanting alternatives to lying on their backs in a horizontal position for childbirth, and it has been extensively documented and studied since that time.
  • Birthing tubs are available at many hospitals that provide water birth as an option to their obstetric patients. For home births, birthing tubs can be rented or purchased. It is recommended that a professional attendant with training in water birth be present during labor and delivery involving birthing tubs.
  • Water birthing has been reported to reduce the requirements for pain medicine in the first stage of labor and has not been associated with a significant increase in complications or negative outcomes for childbirth. Many women who have used this technique have reported positive experiences.
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Technique

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Theory/Evidence

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Safety

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.