The Waterbirth

What exactly is a water birth?

During a water birth in the narrower sense, the woman giving birth spends the time from the opening to the expulsion period in a childbearing basin - the actual birth therefore takes place under water. But that is only the case with very few births. Often water birth means that the expectant mother spends the labor and the ejection phase ""on land"" and only the actual birth takes place in the water (Steck et al 2007).

Actually no water birth is when a pregnant woman spends part of the opening phase in the birthing pool to relieve pain. But that too is often referred to as water birth - and the benefits of it are undoubtedly explored, as opposed to the effects of a ""real"" water birth. Science is still in its infancy here, as the water birth itself is a relatively new invention, while the opening phase in water is significantly older.

If you are planning to have a waterbirth as a pregnant woman, then you should start looking for a birth house or clinic at an early stage, which offers this opportunity and has enough experience with it.

Is a water birth harmless?

There are only a few studies on this topic. These state that, in the case of pregnancy without complications, giving birth to a baby and mother is as dangerous as giving birth ""on the dry land"" (Eriksson 1997, Gilbert & Tookey ). However, only the benefits of the opening phase (labor) in a birth basin are really explored (Alderdice et al., 1995). There is no evidence against the pros and cons of a ""real"" water birth (Cluett et al., 2004).

Some physicians, midwives and expectant parents fear that the mother and / or baby may be infected with an infection in the birthing basin - but this has not been scientifically proven (Garland 2000) and strict hospital and birth house rules apply. You can be sure that the birth basin has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before you get into the tub (DGKH 2002).

What are the benefits of a water birth?

Shorter labor . Some studies show that the opening period in the water is shorter (Garland & Jones 1994), but others (Nicodem 2003) do not confirm this.

less pain . Two large studies (Geissbuhler & Eberhard 2000, Rosenthal 1996) have shown that a birth basin drastically reduces the use of painkillers during childbirth. Preterm children had an epidural anesthetic much less frequently than usual when they were in labor in a birthing pool.This was also confirmed for women with a follow-up pregnancy. However, a study is missing, which also proves this for the birth in the pelvis itself.

Less dam cuts and tears . Some studies show that a water birth (or an opening phase in the water) reduces the risk of a dam rupture and a cut of the perineum (Burns 2001).

Greater freedom of movement . The woman giving birth can flow back and forth between different birth positions, which can mean greater relaxation and thus better birth progress.

Not to mention the benefits for the child: a smoother transition from the amniotic fluid into the water at a constant temperature and a completion of the rotation that it begins in the birth canal is possible.

But with all these benefits, one should not forget that the quoted studies have their limitations. What was not taken into consideration is that the women in these studies are likely to have received a great deal of support from the midwives - and it has been proven many times that such support and help with childbirth can make a big difference (eg, Klaus et al., 1986; Hodnett 2003) - in the form of shorter labor and fewer analgesics.

Who can have a waterbirth?

As a prerequisite for a water birth in Germany, you had a risk-free pregnancy, which is also documented in your fully completed passport:

  • the child must be fully mature (week 37 and later) and have developed normally < They did not have any bleeding in late pregnancy. They did not have pre-existing conditions like diabetes mellitus or infections like HIV or hepatitis B. They did not have severe infections in pregnancy. They do not expect multiple births not in breech position
  • (Steck et al 2007, DGKH 2002)
  • How do I plan a water birth in the clinic?
  • First, you need to decide if you really want a water birth, or if you just want to spend the opening phase (or parts of it) in the water. The latter is now also possible in many clinics, opportunities for ""real"" water birth are rare and only rarely are pregnant women encouraged to do so. Talk to your midwife or gynecologist and inquire at the clinics in the area. The following questions will help you understand how much experience a water-born clinic has:
  • How many women a year use the birth pool to reduce pain during labor?
  • How many women a year give birth to their children in the birthing pool?
How many midwives have an aquatic birth education?

Has there been maternal or child complications related to the water birth in the past?

What is the probability that the birth basin will be available when I give birth?
  • What should I look for at the birth pool?
  • The high-tech tubs in a clinic and birthing center have little in common with your domestic bathtub. A birthing pool must be so deep that the water of the sitting child is enough to reach the breast, because the buoyancy force can be used for the birth. The pelvis must be strong enough to withstand support with the legs or leaning on the arms. The basins are so large that you can move freely in them, equipped with foam cushions and anti-slip mats and the inflow of water takes place from below, so that no faucet bothers or splashes water on your face. In addition, the pool should be well insulated and provide the opportunity to reheat the water (DGKH 2002).
  • The temperature in the pool must not be too low, but not too high. The water usually has a temperature between 32 and 37 degrees Celsius (Steck et al 2007). In this context, you can decide on your heating needs.
  • Where can I get more information about water birth?
  • There are several ways:

Ask other mothers about their experiences

If you want to know what a water birth feels like, talk best to those who have experienced it! Talk to women who have used a birthing pool to reduce the pain of contractions. And talk to those who have born in the water. Ask at what time these women got into the pelvis and when they came out again! Find out why and where the water helped and what was perhaps less beautiful at the water birth. And ask if the partner or girlfriend was in the pool.

Birth Preparation Courses

You probably do not need a special water birth preparation course because you will learn everything you need to know during birth. But birth preparation classes are usually a good source of information. Ask your midwife or instructor beforehand if the courses also provide information on waterbirth. As a special preparation and water habit, it is advisable to take part regularly in Schwangerenschwimmkursen or Watsu therapy hours.

Internet addresses

  • Delphis Art has a list of clinics that offer a waterbirth and a list of midwives.


  • Alderdice F., Renfrew M., Marchant S., et al. 1995. Labor and birth in water in England and Wales. British Medical Journal. 310: 837.

    Burns E. 2001. Waterbirths. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest. 11 (3): 310-3.

  • Cluett E.R., Nikodem V.C., McCandlish R.E., Burns E.E. 2004. Immersion in water in pregnancy, labor and birth (Cochrane Review) In: The Cochrane Library, Issue 3. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

    DGKH 2002. German Society for Hospital Hygiene: ""Guideline: Hygienic Management of Water Deprivation"", 2002

www.DGKH. de

Eriksson M., Mattsson L.A., Ladfors L. 1997. Early or late bath during the first stage of labor: a randomized study of 200 women. Midwifery. 13: 146-8.

Garland D. and Jones K. 1994. Waterbirth, 'first stage' immersion or non-immersion? British Journal of Midwifery. 2: 113-20.

Garland D. 2000. Waterbirth: an attitude to care. 2nd edition. Oxford: Books for Midwives Press; p93.

Geissbuhler V. and Eberhard J. 2000. Waterbirths: a comparative study. Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy. , 15: 291-300.

Gilbert R.E. and Tookey P.A. . Perinatal mortality and morbidity among babies delivered in water: surveillance study and postal survey. British Medical Journal. 19: 483-7.

Hodnett E.D. 2003. Caregiver support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Review. The Cochrane Library, Issue 1. Oxford: Update Software.

Klaus M., Kennell J., Robertson S., Sosa R. 1986. Effects of social support during parturition on maternal-infant morbidity.

British Medical Journal. 293: 585-7.

Nicodem V.C. 2003. Immersion in water in pregnancy, labor and birth (Cochrane Review) In: The Cochrane Library, Issue 1. Oxford: Update Software.

Robinson J. 1993. A waterbirth death in Sweden. AIMS Journal. 5: 7-8. Steck et al 2007. Steck T., Hertel E., Morgenstern C., Pachmann H.: ""Obstetrics Compendium for Midwives"", Springer 2007.

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