The Benefits of Water Birth

Water birth is becoming more popular, and it’s not just a fad!

For decades, women have been experientially feeling and reporting the benefits of water birth, and there is now ample and detailed evidence on the benefits of water birth, too.


Water Immersion During Labour or Birth

Before we look at what the benefits are, it’s important to note that there is often a distinction made between labouring in water and birthing in water.

In many cases the two go hand in hand, but not always – and there are some benefits which are more unique to water immersion during labour, and others which are more unique to birthing in water. There are certain instances or circumstances – which often the birthing women herself will be able to intuitively sense – which may mean that water immersion is not the best option for all stages of labour. For example, there are some cases where water immersion during labour (especially early labour) may unhelpfully slow down the progress of labour, so delaying getting in the pool until transition or very active labour is often suggested to alleviate that issue.

And of course, we always need to remember that this is the beautifully unpredictable world of birth. There is no “one size fits all” solution to birth, and every labour and birth is unique.

birth in water


water birth

Water Birth and Pain Relief

One of the most notable benefits of water birth is the natural pain relief that warm water immersion provides. Women report lower “pain scores” when labouring and birthing in water, which makes a big difference to their overall experiences of birth. Warm water is soothing and relaxing, so a birthing woman’s physical and mental experience of pain is improved. Pain relief is perhaps the number one reason many women are drawn to water birth, in particular, if they are wanting natural pain relief for a natural birth.

Studies also show that on average women have shorter labours when using water immersion, which means less time spent experiencing the strong physical sensations of contractions.


Better Birth Outcomes

Largely due to the pain relieving properties of warm water, water immersion leads to less use of pain medication during labour. All medical pain management strategies have side effects and implications for the birthing women and often the baby, and some women choose to avoid them where possible.

There is also evidence to show that for water birth, there are fewer instances of the use of artificial oxytocin (to augment labour), which is seen as a positive again because of potential unwanted side effects of the drug. Relatedly, studies show that women who labour and/or birth in water are more likely to have a natural delivery of the placenta as well, without the need the drug.

There are higher instances of vaginal birth or natural birth when it comes to water immersion, too. This includes there being fewer uses of forceps, vacuum, or surgery. We also see that the chances of perineal tearing is decreased (likely because of the softening of skin in warm water) and that there are fewer instances of episiotomies after a woman has laboured in water.



water baby

Natural Birth

Finally, it’s also worth noting that there are benefits for baby, too! One study found that water immersion during labour led to improved blood flow to the baby. Any drug a woman has during labour will transfer to baby, so a drug free birth is a drug free baby, allowing the feeding and bonding process to happen more effectively and naturally.


Better Birth Experiences

Although it’s harder to quantify, there is no denying that women who labour and birth in water more often report having positive birth experiences. And birth satisfaction matters! A woman’s experience of labour and birth makes a lifelong imprint and sets the stage for mothering her new baby.

With water immersion, women generally feeler calmer and more relaxed. Many even have otherworldly experiences where it’s possible to deeply tune into intuition and a more hypnotic state.

There is also something to be said for the immediate moments after birth. Water immersion allows for immediate and interrupted skin to skin contact: it is great bonding for the mother, baby, and any other family who are present.

Links and Studies

We are so happy that water birth is receiving the attention and recognition it deserves. You can read more about the evidence on water birth at these links:

Evidence Based Birth

Water birth provides clear benefits for healthy mums and their newborns

The Benefits of Water birth – Sara Wickham