Benefits of Water Immersion During Birth
Water immersion during labor is an increasingly popular birthing option for healthy women that experience a straightforward pregnancy, labor spontaneously at full term and plan to give birth in a midwifery-led care setting. The process involves immersion in a birth pool to achieve relaxation and pain relief during the first and possibly part of the second stage of labor. The mother exits the pool for the actual birth, allowing the infant to emerge outside of the water. This method is different from a water birth, during which the woman remains in the pool as the infant emerges into the water and is then brought to the surface to initiate breathing.
In a new systematic review and meta-analysis published in BMJ Open, researchers compared the interventions and outcomes of water immersion, water birth and no-water- immersion births. After reviewing 36 studies encompassing the experiences of about 150,000 women, researchers found that water immersion significantly reduced the use of epidurals, injected opioids, episiotomy, maternal pain and postpartum hemorrhage. There was also an increase in maternal satisfaction and improved odds of an intact perineum with water immersion. Water births were associated with increased odds of the tearing of the umbilical cord from the placenta, making delivery of the placenta difficult, although the absolute risk remained low (4.3 ver- sus 1.3 per 1,000). There were no differences in any other identified neonatal outcomes.