Today we are going to look at waterbirth – still an option for labor as well as the birth itself, here at BMH. Here are some things to think about as you plan.

Prepare Your Mind

Sounds funny, but the first thing to do is think about why you have decided to have a waterbirth. Is it something you are doing for yourself, or because someone expects you to? Are you strongly drawn to the idea of labor and birth in water? Can you see yourself in that tub, feeling comfortable, strong and confident?

It is best to let go of rigid expectations about birth, and stay flexible. Plan and prepare for the waterbirth you want, but allow yourself the luxury of that final decision when the time comes. That way everybody stays flexible and knows that you plan to follow your instincts and do what feels really right to you.

Get in touch with your birth fears and work on diminishing them by gathering information, educating yourself, and developing and trusting your intuition. After all, women’s bodies are made to give birth – your body knows what to do.


Some women are not comfortable with nudity. Since we may associate being in a bath with being nude, you might not feel at ease about being in the tub even though you might want a waterbirth. If that’s you – think about wearing a sports bra, tankini-style top, an oversized T-shirt or nightgown in the tub.


Our tubs here at BMH are big enough to sit in comfortably and deep enough to come up to armpit level, so you can get buoyant. It takes about ten minutes to get the tubs filled. We keep the water between 95-100 degrees for comfort and safety.

Eating and Drinking

Drink to thirst. Ask your support people to remind you to drink (and to hand you the cup!) while you’re in the tub – you are still sweating, but not noticing it in the water! Most women aren’t very hungry in active labor, but you might enjoy a popsicle or Italian ice. Staying well-hydrated helps reduce the total length of labor.

When to Get into the Tub

Wait until you have a strong desire to get into the water. It’s best to wait until contractions are “well-established” – usually around 5 centimeters dilation, with good contractions every 2-1/2 to 3 minutes. This puts you in the tub when you are most in need of the wonderful pain relief that water gives.

If labor slows down when you are outside the water, try getting in the tub. Be prepared, though – sometimes labor slows down when you are in the water! If that happens, get out and move around a bit. It seems like just changing what you’re doing gets things back on track again.

More Hydrotherapy

Many women are surprised to find that they like the shower very much during labor. The feel and sound of the shower can be very soothing, and the upright positioning helps the baby wend its way down to help you open up.

Labor and Birth Positions

Experiment with a variety of positions in the tub: kneeling, squatting, sitting, lying outstretched are all used, especially during labor. A bath pillow can feel good if you are relaxing outstretched. (Take a look at for some ideas for “land labors” and know that many can be adapted for the tub!)

How long does the baby stay under water?

Discuss this with your doctor and midwife ahead of time. Usually the baby is under water for the amount of time it takes mom to take the baby in her arms (called “rapid emersion”). Although you may see videos of newly-born babies swimming under water, remember that the great benefits of waterbirth are achieved as soon as the infant comes into the warm water.

How does the baby breathe?

The baby begins to breathe after its face comes out of the water and its skin and cord come into contact with the cold air. Until then, the baby receives oxygen through the umbilical cord, just as it has through the nine months of pregnancy.

What about the placenta?

Sometimes you’ll be in the tub bonding with your baby, and the placenta will also be delivered in the tub. If the placenta is slow to come, you’ll get out of the tub and back into the birthing bed to deliver the placenta there.

Other things to know

Often the hardest thing about a waterbirth is keeping everybody warm. In that case you may all get moved to the bed with some warm blankets, or the baby may need to go to the warmer in your room for a while. Studies show, however, that there is no need to worry about increased infection rates with waterbirth.

Did you have a waterbirth? We’d love to hear your stories and see your photos! And if you used water as part of your “toolbox” we’d love to hear about that too.

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