Floating into the world – Advantages of a Water birth

by | Apr 6, 2021

There are many advantages to a water birth. Midwife and nurse, Sister Des Meyer talks us through it.

There are three classifications for birth: a landbirth (the standard way of delivering as we understand it), labouring in water and giving birth in water.

When we talk about having a water birth, very often a mother is labouring in water, and then climbs out of the bath and physically delivers on land. If mom stays in the pool and delivers her baby in the water, she has had a water birth.

Here are some of the advantages of having a water birth.

Pain relief

In an evidence-based study (evidencebasedbirth.com) of water birth, it became very clear that labouring in water reduced a lot of the perception of pain in the mother. The study also looked at whether this was due to the water itself, or that the “memory” of the pain felt during labour was reduced by the experience of a water birth.

The mothers felt that labouring in water was equal to receiving narcotic pain relief during labour, although no studies were done on mothers comparing water birth to having an epidural, as that was not an option for a mother in water.

However the overarching result was that the pain was more manageable in water.

This could be because:

  • The warm water helped to soothe and relax the mom.
  • The support of water made the mom feel weightless and helped her move into positions that were more comfortable for her.
  • Being in water can lower blood pressure, reduce feelings of anxiety and thereby help to release the body’s natural pain relief: endorphins.
  • Back labour is relieved and the feeling of pressure when fully dilated is helped by being in water.
  • Feelings of safety and cosiness also enhance the lowering of pain perception.
Duration of labour

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) immersion in water duringthe  first stage of labour may help shorten the duration of labour. In the evidence-based study, it was found that labour was shortened by 50 minutes. One small study revealed that women who labour in water may have a lower caesarean rate (13.2% vs. 32.9%).


Studies have found that there is less perineal trauma in water birth. Moms are more relaxed, will choose a position that is optimal, and the warmth of the water relaxes the muscles of the perineum. Pushing is usually not rushed and the likelihood of an episiotomy is reduced.

For the baby

Your baby has been floating in warm fluid for nine months, so the transition to the outside world is perceived as kinder for a baby delivered into warm water. The baby is relaxed, and as long as the baby is well monitored by the midwife, he should be very happy to have the transition from womb to world via a water experience.

Skin-to-skin contact is immediately available to the baby, which also helps his adjustment to life outside the womb. Baby is able to latch as soon as he is ready, as there is no separation from mom for warming or other observations.

For the mom

Moms who have had a birth in water or laboured in water mostly report a positive experience. They perceive the labour as less painful, feel more in control and overall report a good birthing experience.

They report a greater sense of birth satisfaction, with a higher sense of privacy, enabling them to focus on the process of birth. With fewer interventions like epidurals, instrument delivery and caesarean birth, it can be a very rewarding way to give birth to your precious little baby.

Guest Editor Reevana Govender
Guest Editor Reevana Govender

There are so many amazing benefits to labouring in water and to a water birth. I laboured in water during my first birth and it definitely reduced my pain significantly.