Water Births

Waterbirth FAQ

Is waterbirth an option in any local hospitals?

Yes, waterbirth is an option offered in Rocky Mountain House, Rimbey, and Red Deer. However, only midwives and physicians certified in waterbirth are able to offer this option. Please check with your provider to see if this is an option for you.

What prevents baby from breathing under water?

There are four main factors that prevent the baby from inhaling water at the time of birth:

1.  Prostaglandin E2 levels from the placenta which cause a slowing down or stopping of the fetal breathing movements. When the baby is born and the Prostaglandin level is still high, the baby’s muscles for breathing simply don’t work, thus engaging the first inhibitory response.

2.  Babies are born experiencing mild hypoxia or lack of oxygen. Hypoxia causes apnea and swallowing, not breathing or gasping.

3.  Water is a hypotonic solution and lung fluids present in the fetus are hypertonic. So, even if water were to travel in past the larynx, they could not pass into the lungs based on the fact that hypertonic solutions are denser and prevent hypotonic solutions from merging or coming into their presence.

4.  The last important inhibitory factor is the Dive Reflex and revolves around the larynx. The larynx is covered all over with chemoreceptors or taste buds. The larynx has five times as many as taste buds as the whole surface of the tongue. So, when a solution hits the back of the throat, passing the larynx, the taste buds interprets what substance it is and the glottis automatically closes and the solution is then swallowed, not inhaled.

For a more complete description, please read Barbara Harper’s Waterbirth Basics 

What is the temperature of the water?

Water should be monitored at a temperature that is comfortable for the mother, usually between 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit. Water temperature should not exceed 101 degrees Fahrenheit as it could lead to an increase in the mother’s body temperature which could cause the baby’s heart rate to increase. It is a good idea to have plenty of water to drink and cold cloths for the mother’s face and neck. A cool facial mist from a spray bottle is a welcome relief for some mothers as well.

How much does a waterbirth cost?

In our local hospitals you must purchase a waterbirth kit for $100. This includes a disposable liner, thermometer, hose, and fish net. For home births you may be able to rent or buy your own pool.  The cost for a complete birth pool kit can be under $250.

How long is baby in the water after the birth?

In Canada, practitioners usually bring the baby out of the water within the first few seconds after birth. There is no physiological reason to leave the baby under the water for any length of time. There are several water birth videos that depict leaving the baby under the water for several moments after birth and the babies are just fine. Physiologically, the placenta is supporting the baby with oxygen during this time though it can never be predicted when the placenta will begin to separate causing the flow of oxygen to baby to stop. The umbilical cord pulsating is not a guarantee that the baby is receiving enough oxygen. The safe approach is to remove the baby, without hurrying, and gently place him upright onto the mother’s chest.

When should I get into the water?

A woman should be encouraged to use the labor pool whenever she wants. However, if a mother chooses to get into the water in early labor, before her contractions are strong and close together, the water may relax her enough to slow or stop labor altogether.  That is why some practitioners limit the use of the pool until labor patterns are established and the cervix is dilated to at least 5 centimeters.

There is some physiological data that supports this rule, but each and every situation must be evaluated on its own. Some mothers find a bath in early labor useful for its calming effect and to determine if labor has actually started. If contractions are strong and regular, no matter how dilated the cervix is, a bath might be in order to help the mother to relax enough to facilitate dilation.

Therefore, it has been suggested that the bath be used in a “trial of water” for at least one hour and allow the mother to judge its effectiveness. Midwives report that some women can go from 1 cm to complete dilation within the first hour or two of immersion.  The first hour of relaxation in the pool is usually the best and can often help a woman achieve complete dilation quickly.

Adapted from Waterbirth International


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