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Benefits of Water Birth Overview

Introduction

The issue of improving the process of labor and mitigating the post-labor consequences is a significant healthcare concern. Waterbirth remains to be a controversial approach, mainly because not many studies were conducted to examine this method. Some evidence suggests that waterbirth has many benefits both for women and neonates, while other researchers point out a lack of evidence, especially for patients who have diabetes or preeclampsia. Waterbirth can improve labor by decreasing the time of delivery, minimizing the risk of postpartum complications, and reducing adverse neonatal events.

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Context

Waterbirth is a new technique applied in some hospitals across the United States. It can be defined as a process of labor that occurs in a water birth pool, or “a neonate being intentionally born underwater” (Bovbjerg, Cheyney, & Everson, 2016, p. 11). The process when women who are in the water during labor by giving birth in the air are not considered as waterbirth. Next, postpartum complications can include a variety of adversities women may experience after birth, including infections, pain, and others. Similarly, neonatal complications include any difficulties of the newborn. Finally, a waterbirth pool is a specific instrument designed for labor, which functions similarly to a bathtub and allows for freedom of movement.

One issue with the waterbirth technique is that because this approach is new, there is not enough data to make certain conclusions about its safety and applicability it for all patients. However, the studies examined in this paper provide some evidence for the benefits that waterbirth has. Most of the studies that focused on reviewing waterbirth were small and observational (Bovbjerg et al., 2016). However, some studies report the cases of successful waterbirth and highlight the benefits of this technique.

1st Pro-Point

Waterbirth can help reduce the overall duration of labor. According to Neiman, Austin, Tan, Anderson, and Chipps (2019), women who use waterbirth experience a faster second stage when compared to women who do not use it. This stage lasts until the delivery of the baby and thus is an essential element of determining the benefits of waterbirth. Hodgson, Comfort, and Albert (2020) state that this benefit is questionable since the average duration is reduced by approximately ten minutes. However, through large-scale waterbirth studies, the researchers will be able to gain more comprehension about the relationship between waterbirth and labor duration.

2nd Pro-Points

Children delivered through this method have a lower risk of developing neonatal consequences. One of the concerns of waterbirth is the health risk for the neonate. The main issue is the possibility of inhaling water during the process. However, Bovbjerg et al. (2016) state that in this case, the diving reflex allows neonates to avoid breathing underwater, although this reflex is not present in adults or children. Moreover, the comparison of neonatal measures suggests that waterborne neonates fare better when compared to other babies. Hodson et al. (2020) report a lower occurrence of neonatal adversities for the waterbirth cohort. Therefore, the waterbirth method reduces the risks of neonates developing complications.

3rd Pro-Point

Waterbirth mitigates the likelihood of having postpartum consequences and complications. According to evidence collected by Neiman, Austin, Tan, Anderson, and Chipps (2019), women who use waterbirth are hospitalized less often when compared to those giving birth through traditional methods. Mainly, the risk of infection or trauma is less significant for women who have waterbirth. Moreover, the observation during six weeks after giving birth suggests that women who use waterbirth are less likely to be hospitalized (Bovbjerg et al., 2016). Thus, waterbirth reduces short-term and long-term health risks for women.

Conclusion

Overall, waterbirth can help reduce the duration of labor as well as the possible risk of having postpartum or neonatal consequences. The evidence reviewed in this paper report many cases of successful waterbirth, although more large-scale studies should be carried out to collect more evidence. In general, the risk of neonatal and maternal complications, as well as hospitalization for six weeks, is reduced. Moreover, the duration of the labor, more specifically the second stage, is usually reduced when using waterbirth.

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References

Bovbjerg, M. L., Cheyney, M., & Everson, C. (2016). Maternal and newborn outcomes following waterbirth: The Midwives Alliance of North America statistics project, 2004 to 2009 cohort. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 61(1), 11-20.

Hodgson, Z. G., Comfort, L. R., & Albert, A. A. (2020). Water birth and perinatal outcomes in British Columbia: A retrospective cohort study. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 42(2), 150-155.

Neiman, E., Austin, E., Tan, A., Anderson, C. M., & Chipps, E. (2019). Outcomes of waterbirth in a US hospital‐based midwifery practice: A retrospective cohort study of water immersion during labor and birth. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 0, 1-8.

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