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Should I Have a Water Birth?

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Should I Have a Water Birth?

Sep 24, 2015
More and more women are choosing to give birth in tubs of warm water. It’s a safe process that can help with pain help a new mom relax. In this podcast, certified nurse midwife Dr. Debra Penney talks about how a woman should decide if a water birth is right for her.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: Giving birth in water - is it something that you should consider? That's coming next on The Scope.

Announcer: Medical news and research from University of Utah physicians and specialists you can use for a happier and healthy life. You're listening to The Scope.

Interviewer: It's a trend. It's like one of those popular things that expectant moms-to-be are just doing. It's giving birth in the water. We're talking today with Debra Penney. She is a certified nurse-midwife in the College of Nursing at the University of Utah. Is it, first of all, safe?

Debra: Yes. Actually, for low-risk women who have no medical problems who are expecting a normal progress in birth, it's very safe and it's very comfortable. It can relieve a lot of pain in labor as well.

Interviewer: Is that why a lot of women choose to give birth in the water, then, as opposed to the traditional way?

Debra: Yeah, many women find it very relaxing and pain relieving to be in the water during birth. It's warm water, it's clean, it's filtered as hours progress, and they find it very good to be buoyant and in the warm water.

Interviewer: Is this something that's done at home or is it also something you can do at a hospital?

Debra: Not every hospital offers this. Here at the University of Utah we are offering it, and yes, they can do it in the hospital. It's often done at home for home births as well.

Interviewer: And so I guess if it's safe, if it's comfortable for the mom, my next question is, what is the difference between giving birth in the water versus the traditional way? Is there a difference in why a mom would choose to give birth in the water instead?

Debra: Well, as midwives we like to give mothers choices, and we like to really consider the safety of those choices as well. So for the low-risk women we do some additional laboratory tests like hepatitis C for the mother because that can be transmitted in the water, and so if she's negative with that we can go ahead and anticipate a normal birth with her in the water. So the midwife traditionally can bring the baby to the surface at birth within five seconds. There's actually a protocol for safety, both for mom and baby with a water birth.

Interviewer: Are there any side effects or risk?

Debra: There's very few risks. If she's got a lot of meconium that shows up telling us the baby is stressed, we'll get her out. If for some reason labor doesn't progress, we'll get her out. And we always give women the choice to self-select when it comes time to push, and a lot of these women do get out to push the baby out and/or the placenta after the birth. But of all of the water births that have been done around the world, there's not a huge chance for infection or any of the other normal risks you would think of.

Interviewer: So it sounds like it's a pretty safe, natural process to give birth in the water. If it is a choice given to moms, then, is there a deciding factor, like, "Oh, I should be giving birth in the water versus in a hospital in the traditional way?"

Debra: It's really up to the woman, and some women come in wanting that straight from the beginning and we have not offered it until now. Some women just choose to labor in water and to get out when they're ready. So it's really up to the woman as far as what she wants, and having only one tub at the University will limit some of their choices. But it is sort of a trend these days.

Interviewer: So it's not really a "this is better than this" sort of a thing?

Debra: No, it's definitely not necessarily better. It's just a choice.

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